Social Media Investigators Solving Crimes Across the Nation

Social Media Investigators Solving Crimes Across the Nation
  • True crime has become a wildly popular genre in the age of social media. 
  • Sleuths helped solve the Gabby Petito case in 2021. 
  • The Golden State Killer was also a popular case brought back into the spotlight by social media. 
  • Internet investigators are more involved in cases than ever before. 

( – On September 19, Jenn and Kyle Bethune posted a video on their “Red White & Bethune” channel showing a white Sprinter van parked on the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park. The couple shot the video on August 27, right around the time police officers believe 22-year-old Gabby Petito died. Later that evening, law enforcement officers found the young woman’s body in the same area the couple shot the video.

The Petito case once again brought internet sleuths back into the spotlight. For weeks, true crime fans compared notes online and tried to find Petito and her fiance (and alleged killer) Brian Laundrie. But the sensational case wasn’t the only time the internet has been involved in a mystery.

Golden State Killer

Author Michelle McNamara, wife of actor Patton Oswalt, spent years looking for the Golden State Killer (a name she helped create). When the case was cold, she poured over police files to find clues that might identify the man who murdered at least 13 people and sexually assaulted more than 50. The author ran a blog where she spoke about her investigation.

In 2016, McNamara died from an accidental drug overdose. Two years later, California police and the FBI arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, charging him with the crimes. Although law enforcement identified him through a genealogy test, McNamara is credited with the increased scrutiny of the case, which eventually led to officers using the technology to find a match.

Oswalt finished the book his wife started about the case, publishing it after her death. “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” later became an HBO limited series.

DeAngelo later pleaded guilty.

Missing Person Case Solved

In November 2021, YouTuber Jeremy Beau Sides shared a video on his channel, which had more than 113,000 subscribers at the time. It showed him scuba diving in the Tennessee River and looking for 17-year-old Jeremy Bechtel and 18-year-old Erin Foster, who’d vanished on April 3, 2020.

Upon viewing the video, White County Sheriff Steve Page contacted the YouTuber and suggested he look in a different area, telling him the couple went missing somewhere else. Sides took the sheriff’s advice, and his team looked in the other location. That’s when they found Foster’s car and solved a 21-year-old cold case.

All of the cases above show just how powerful social media can be when people use it for good.

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