Animal Instinct: How Cat-Loving Sleuths Found an Accused Killer Sadist

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On May 25th, 2012, a video titled 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick was uploaded to the gore sites TheYNC and Best Gore, destinations for explicit videos and images of real-life blood and guts and draw in the millions of monthly viewers by doing so. (Across various sites, 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick earned approximately 100,000 views.) It portrayed the dark figure stabbing and dismembering a naked dead man, while "True Faith" by New Order played in the background.

After getting over their initial shock, the web sleuths began to search for clues the same way they did the kitten killer videos. As they searched around the web, they spotted a trend they had seen before — Magnotta had been hyping the video before he even shot it. 

On March 3rd, a post was made on blogspot.ca titled Necrophiliac Serial Killer Luka Magnotta. A month later, on April 22nd and 24th, four videos were posted by user "Rita Van Volkenberg" on YouTube, all with the same title, Cannibal serial Killer - Luka Magnotta, but in multiple languages. On May 15th, an anonymous Yahoo post talked about a video circulating on TOR (The Onion Router, or "the Deep Web"), "all I know is it was shot in San Francisco, I have been trying to find it for weeks." The same day, YouTube user "Alexis Valoranreich" uploaded a video containing a still photo of a figure in a purple hooded sweatshirt, holding an ice pick in a stabbing position. It was titled One Lunatic One Ice Pick Video. A thread on www.psychforums.com was started, declaring that The 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick video was real and was created by a 20-year old in San Francisco.

When the video itself was finally posted on May 25th, the Google pump was primed with mentions of 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick, so later, when he did post the video and people began searching for the terms, they would be met with a host of results, possibly giving it more legitimacy.

On May 27th, Green left a message for a detective in Toronto, but his message was not returned. That night, in Montana, attorney Roger Renville was surfing the Best Gore site and saw the video. He had never heard of Luka Magnotta or kitten killing videos, but he watched the entire 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick video and believed it was real. He searched for online videos which used "True Faith" as a soundtrack and found Luka's name. Then he matched up a ring Luka was wearing in a picture found on Photobucket to a ring the killer was wearing in the video. By late Saturday night, he had called the Denver police department (Renville read an account that a former roommate of Magnotta's had once killed a man there). On Sunday, he called Miami PD, and then Toronto PD, the latter of whom told the Toronto Star's website that they did receive a call from Renville, but that his report was vague. 

On May 29th, residents of an apartment building at 5720 Decarie Blvd. in Montreal were complaining of a foul smell. A janitor discovered a suitcase next to a mountain of garbage bags behind the building. Inside was the headless torso of a man. 

At 6 p.m. that night, a package containing a human foot was received at the Conservative Party of Canada headquarters in Ottawa. It had been mailed from Montreal. At 9 p.m., a package addressed to the Liberal Party Headquarters in Ottawa was discovered by postal employees to contain a human hand. 

After taking statements and finding evidence in the trash — including a blunt instrument and papers identifying Magnotta — police entered #208 of 5720 Decarie. Inside, they found a dark studio apartment that was a far cry from the Lotus-driving, jet-setting-model lifestyle Magnotta's online persona had cultivated. They saw a bloody mattress and blood in the refrigerator. Scrawled in red ink inside a closet were the words "if you don't like the reflection, don't look in the mirror. I don't care."

An arrest warrant was issued for Luka Magnotta. 

The following day the torso was identified by a friend as the body of Lin Jun, a 33-year-old computer science student at Concordia University in Montreal who had been reported missing several days earlier. The police later determined that Magnotta killed Jun on May 24th, a day before the video was posted — and more than a week after the still image and mention of 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick.

It is unclear how he met Lin Jun. But in the beginning of May, authorities claim Magnotta began posting in the Men seeking Men section of Craigslist under an alias.

Lin Jun Luka Magnotta
Lin Jun
Rex Features via AP Images

On the web, the news hit the groups hard. "I left work, went home, went straight to my computer for two or three days," says Moovan. "I took a vacation. I cried a ton. You know, you feel things. You tried your hardest to put together a cohesive narrative for the police department. You thought you did enough to get at least a probable cause warrant. And because it's all Internet hoo ha, and it was just kittens, so, whatever."

"We were all scared to death of course," says Nicee, who wanted to be referred to by her online handle. "For two years we've been crying, 'he's gonna kill people.'"

"My blood ran cold," says Boyle. "Then after that, it was like, 'I told you so.'"

Once they had a human body, Luka Magnotta became one of Interpol's most wanted.

A week later, a man named Kadir Anlayisli was working at his job at the Spätkauf Internet café in the working-class section of Neukölln in Berlin. At 11 a.m., a man walked in, wearing sunglasses and makeup, and said, "Bonjour, Internet." 

Anlayisli, who described himself to the press as a news junkie, recognized the face, but couldn't quite place it. From his workstation, he was looking at the monitors of his customers and noticed that the man in sunglasses was viewing numerous articles about a killer in Montreal that Anlayisly had read about. Then it clicked. It was him. 

Anlayisli flagged down a group of cadets in training that happened to be passing by. They confronted Magnotta, who initially gave them a fake name, before telling them, "You got me." On his monitor, Magnotta had been Googling photos and articles about himself.

Both the official detectives and the amateur sleuths began to piece together Magnotta's movements while he was on the run. The day after the murder, CCTV footage showed a nervous-looking Magnotta removing garbage bags from his apartment. His neighbor, actor Derek Mackinnon, had also seen Magnotta in the hall wearing a red wig. The star of the 1980 slasher flick Terror Train told the Toronto Sun that Magnotta had actually asked him to come visit him the night of the murder, and the actor wondered aloud through tears if he could have been the victim. Footage was viewed of what looked like Magnotta carrying packages at a post office in Côte-des-Neiges. This was all happening before the body was found. He then flew from Montreal into Paris ahead of the international manhunt, arriving wearing a wig and Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

Magnotta was in Paris when the authorities declared him an international fugitive. Police began receiving thousands of tips — Magnotta was seen at bar, Magnotta trying to crash a house party. He found his way to Berlin via bus. His name was all over the papers and television. The French media nicknamed him "The Butcher of Montreal." The German media nicknamed him "The Porno Killer." 

Luka Magnotta was famous. 

luka magnotta
This image taken from CCTV shows Luka Magnotta entering the Spätkauf Internet café in the working-class section of Neukölln in Berlin, Germany.
AP Photo/AP Video

Magnotta was taken into custody and on June 18th was delivered to Canada via military transport, and sent to the Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre in Montreal.

So far Magnotta has only been indicted on one count of first-degree murder, which carries a possible sentence of life, with parole eligible after 25 years, along with offering indignities to a human body, distributing obscene materials, using the postal service to distribute obscene materials and criminal harassment. The end of the video showed a black rabbit enter the scene and begin to nibble on one of the victim's leg stumps. Montreal police Commander Ian Lafreniere confirmed that longer version of the video included acts of cannibalism.

In the spring of last year, a 2005 letter from Magnotta's then psychiatrist, Thuraisamy Sooriabalan, surfaced. It revealed that Magnotta (then going by his birth name) was a paranoid schizophrenic who would often not take his meds, which included antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Seroquel. Sooriabalan wrote that "Mr. Newman is not very regular in attending the outpatient department and as a result he misses his medications." 

Magnotta is set to go to trial in September. 

Both the amateur and official detectives wonder what else could have been done.

"I was shocked but not that surprised, " says Boudreault of the Montreal SPCA. "A lot of people start with animals and move on the humans. I spent a lot of time on that."

Dee-Ann, who took the case to Boudreault, continues to work with the Animal Beta Project, but has stopped watching cat crush videos. "I just can't do it anymore," she says. "It takes a part of your soul, and that part of your soul when it goes away, it never comes back."

Like many, she harbors ill will to the authorities. "The stupid cop and the stupid SPCA should really listen to amateurs," she says. "We do have a reason we go to see them. We end up doing some of their work. We're not wasting your time."

Moovan and John are still working together under the Animal Beta Project banner. In 2012, they were instrumental in the investigation of Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice in Houston (the former pleaded guilty to state charges while the latter's state case is pending), who are accused of privately selling "hard" crush videos of puppies and kittens. (The pair is accused of releasing "soft crush" videos on Youtube showing the torture of invertebrate animals — which is currently legal — and used them as an advertisement to sell the illegal "hard crush" videos.) Nicee continues to work with them as well. "I was very meek before," she says. "But two years of Luka desensitized me."

"On a personal level, I found a lot of comfort in these people," Moovan says of her fellow citizen detectives. "Because we had been through a year and a half of the weirdest shit ever. I feel closer to them than a lot of the people I know in real life."

Once Magnotta was caught, there were a few factions attempting to take credit for doing much of the legwork during the kitten video phases. Panzarella still harbors ill will to the Facebook group and John Green in particular. "If I ever see you," he says of Green, "I will punch you in the face."

When Ron Jeremy learned of the murder, he says it gave him a chill, because if they had caught Magnotta in the porn set sting, "he would have gotten a few weeks," in jail, and then, maybe, he would've come after Jeremy. "I would be the guy with his head going to a park. An arm here, and a leg here."

Ryan Boyle has not joined any other online investigations since Magnotta's capture, saying, "All the drama and crap, it really left a sick feeling in my stomach. I tell you, a mob can be dangerous, a mob can get very off track." But, he continues, "the collective knowledge of that mob was just breathtaking."

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