The images spread like wildfire: the body of 17-year-old social media personality Bianca Michelle Devins, her neck slashed and body under a green tarp in a wooded area in upstate New York. They were taken by her 21-year-old alleged murderer, a man named Brandon Andrew Clark police say she had been dating for about two months who was arraigned Monday and now faces a second-degree murder charge.
After allegedly stabbing Bianca with a large, black-handled knife, he uploaded the graphic photos to Instagram, 4chan, and gaming chat platform Discord, according to Rolling Stone. He also left a message: "Sorry fuckers, you’re gonna have to find someone else to orbit." (To "orbit" means to focus all your attention and energy on one person.)
By the time police arrived on the scene — tipped off by social media users who'd seen the images — the photos had gone viral. On Instagram, where they circulated for hours before they were removed, users attempted to access the gruesome images in an effort to gain followers and social media clout, with at least one user claiming they would send followers the photos once they had 8,000 followers. And as of Tuesday afternoon, Instagram users were still tagging Bianca's account, @escty, which has gained over 100,000 followers since her death, in cropped versions of the horrific slit-throat photo. In the meantime, users on 4Chan, a message board known for its thriving misogynistic communities, wrote hundreds of posts and made memes celebrating the teen’s death, Syracuse.com reported. Police confirmed to Refinery29 that the images that spread were real, and that they were working with the social media channels to remove the images.
It's a grim tale, made grimmer because it's the kind of public spectacle that's becoming hauntingly common in the era of social media. In March, a white supremacist livestreamed his terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Facebook. In May, a New Jersey man killed an 18-year-old woman and then ordered pizza and posted videos of himself singing about the murder shortly afterward. In 2016, a Texas man posted a photo of his murdered girlfriend on her Facebook page. These crimes raise questions about what responsibility social media channels have to police these posts, and why it can take so long to take them down.
Screenshots on BuzzFeed News show that Clark posted the photo of Bianca with her throat slit with the caption, "I'm sorry Bianca." at around 6:40 a.m. on Sunday. While Instagram removed some of the offending images on Sunday, many reposts of the photo were still there with a "sensitive content filter" that allowed people to click and view them. The platform also reportedly allowed Clark's account to stay active for almost a day. Once Clark's identity was confirmed on Monday, the company removed his accounts from both Facebook and Instagram, and is also reportedly trying to take down parody accounts. The company says it's cooperating with law enforcement.
"Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic event. We are taking every measure to remove this content from our platforms," a spokesperson for Facebook said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
A spokesperson for Discord provided a similar statement: "We are shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible situation. We are working closely with law enforcement to provide any assistance we can. In the meantime, our hearts go out to Bianca's family and loved ones."
In response to the gory images, Bianca's friends and fans have been tagging her in positive and lighthearted photos of pink clouds, Hello Kitty, and platitudes like "think happy thoughts." #RIPBianca can also be found across various social media platforms.
Photos aside, rumors have also spread across social media that Clark was an incel and a stalker. The police have disputed these claims, saying that he and Bianca had an established relationship before the slaying, and that they met on Instagram approximately two months ago. "They were definitely in an intimate relationship, and he referred to her as his girlfriend," Lt. Bryan Coromato told Refinery29. Coromato said investigators have spoken to the victim’s mother, who confirmed the two had been hanging out. Police have said that the two had met each other's families.
The duo reportedly attended Canadian singer Nicole Dollanganger's concert in New York City together on Saturday evening — Clark was giving Bianca a ride home when they reportedly got into an argument. Coromato said investigators are still piecing together the events of the night.
What they do know is that at around 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, Oneida County emergency dispatch received numerous calls about disturbing social media posts Clark had published about allegedly killing Bianca and threatening to kill himself, according to a statement provided to Refinery29 by the Utica Police Department. Police said Clark also called 911 and made incriminating statements with respect to the homicide. When police arrived at the scene of the crime, they found Clark next to a black SUV parked on a dead-end street by a wooded area. As officers approached, he started to stab himself in the neck with the knife.
After cutting his own throat, Clark reportedly laid on a green tarp that was on the ground nearby, telling police it concealed Bianca's body. Then he began to take selfies of himself laying across her deceased body. Police disarmed Clark and took him into custody. He was then immediately taken to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. Clark’s self-inflicted injuries were severe, but he is expected to survive. He is currently in the hospital under police guard and is expected to be moved to Oneida County jail this week.
Bianca's family described her as a "talented artist, a loving sister, daughter, and cousin, and a wonderful young girl, taken from us all too soon." The 17-year-old, who lived in Utica, NY, had just graduated from high school last month and was looking forward to attending community college to study psychology in the fall. "She is now looking down on us, as she joins her cat, Belle, in heaven," the family wrote in a statement. "Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our Princess."
Refinery29 reached out to 4Chan and we will update this story if we hear back.