Murder'd: Your Hook-Up App Could Kill You (Or, Meet My Friend, the S&M Psychopath)

Having been blamed for everything from stress, depression and ADHD to bad posture, eye strain and even the shrinking of our brains, we know the internet is bad for you. We also know now that it can literally kill you.

It's been a busy week for cybercrime, especially for cases in which gay men were the victims. In Brooklyn, a former male model was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for the stabbing death of a man he met on the gay dating app Jack'd — an app that has a long history of nefarious users. And in Dallas, two men were charged with using another hook-up app, Grindr, to lure guys who were then beaten and robbed.

Unfortunately, such stories are nothing new. The internet and all those looking-for-quick-love apps have for some time been a dark tool for criminals seeking their prey. It's not only gay people who are in danger, of course — countless individuals of every gender, race and sexual orientation have been victimized by shady characters they met on sites like Craigslist and Facebook and in chatrooms. So many have met their demise because of relationships facilitated on the internet, in fact, that there's even a classification for such cases in law enforcement: "internet homicide." (An entire Wikipedia page, including a listing of the most notorious cases, is devoted to the topic.)

Still, some argue that too much has been made of the connection between the internet and bad stuff happening to us. After all, dangerous, horrific people and things existed before we all got online — serial killers, muggers, rapists, sexual deviants, STDs, open manholes, tidal waves, President Donald Trump. Having been a New Yorker for nearly three decades now, I have, unfortunately, known victims as well as perpetrators of sex crimes, none of it having anything to do with the internet.

Story time: I had this rich investment banker acquaintance in the early 90s, long before hook-up apps and Craiglist, who was the very embodiment of Tom Wolfe's Sherman McCoy character in The Bonfire of the Vanities. He was the type of guy who had Audubon prints hanging in his home, got his suits from Brook's Brothers on Madison Avenue and gave money to charities. He was the first person I ever knew who worked on Wall Street, owned houses within driving distance of each other and had a Sub-Zero refrigerator. He also threw lavish parties at his condo, on Park Avenue, and I went to a couple. He also invited me and other friends up to his summer house on Nantucket a few times. Being fresh to the city and a young, poor writer (as opposed to an old, poor one, like I am now), I was, naturally, wowed by it all. Imagine my surprise when I opened The Village Voice one morning to find that Mr. Brooks Brothers turned out to be a twisted sex maniac who by night trolled leather bars where he picked up unsuspecting men, brought them back to his place and proceeded to immobilize and torture them and hold them there against their will for days before turning them loose — but not before threatening them if they ever breathed a word of any of it. The authorities did some nosing around apparently, but nothing came of it and the monster slipped the country, never to be heard from again. (Such an escape would've been easy for him, as he had homes, not to mention rich friends and benefactors, all over the world). Strangely, any and all details about the case have vanished into thin air, just like the perp himself — absolutely nothing about it can be found on the internet. Money really does buy everything, I guess, even a scrubbed-clean biography for an S&M psychopath.

Several years after that hideousness, another friend of mine, Martin Barreto, a former aide to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was found dead in his apartment in the Village, the victim of a drug addict he'd picked up on the street who was, soon after the event, picked up himself by the NYPD. (I partied a bit back in the day with Martin and his fellow Nicaraguan/lifelong family friend Bianca Jagger — and no, not a drag queen doing Bianca Jagger but the Bianca Jagger. Being around her was like being with Mount Rushmore as reimagined by Andy Warhol — and she said about as much as those dead presidents carved out of stone. But the eyes, they talked and talked. No wonder Mick got smitten.) Anyway, Martin, after his stint in the mayor's office, would go on to start a successful PR agency, and I have often wondered what would've come of him had he not been snuffed out at such a young age. Senseless tragedy, as they say. Poor Martin had the misfortune of befriending the wrong person — but their meeting had nothing to do with the internet. The dude who did him in was just some random thug on the street, the kind we've all passed by a thousand times.

The point is, whether on Grindr or Jack'd or at a fancy Park Avenue party or just around the block, you never know where evil lurks. Be safe out there, kids.

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