Facebook arrests, as many now call them, have become increasingly common as police realize that reams of evidence are available to them with a single click on a keyboard.
Nevertheless an 18-year-old in Oregon never thought in a million years that officers would be scanning his status updates for information on a drunk-driving, hit-and-run accident. Turns out two of his 657 friends on Facebook saw the status update below and quickly contacted the police.
Drivin drunk... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P
The status update soon became evidence, Brad Johnston, deputy chief of police in Astoria, Ore., told NBC News on Friday. "We have used Facebook previously as an investigative tool, but this is the first time I believe we have arrested someone who posted they had committed the crime," he said.
James Cox-Brown - who counts Redline 360, Lifted Trucks USA and "Mommy Needs a Beer" - as some of his favorites on Facebook, still has a public Facebook page a day after the arrest. And in looking at the page it's clear that the 18-year-old Oregon native likes to joke around, enjoys partying and has few qualms about making his personal life public.
Despite the ability to customize privacy settings and block strangers from seeing photos, comments and updates, Cox-Brown has, in many ways, made his life - and the drunk-driving hit-and-run - an open book. His current cover photo shows a group of friends spending time together. The caption? "The day Ryan Hurt got pissed on ;)"
To a teenager that caption might seem funny. But to adults looking at the page it is simply one more sign that Cox-Brown did not have a mature perspective on incidents in his life.
Astoria police "have an active Social Media presence. It was a private Facebook message to one of our officers that got this case moving," Johnston added in an incident report file posted on the department's website.
"When you post [that status update] on Facebook you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long," Johnston said in the release.
The arrest is just one of a growing number of investigations that hinge on social-media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Live Journal. One of those arrests included the case of a 12-year-old girl from Clayton, N.J. that befriended the wrong people on Facebook.
Autumn Pasquale came from a tiny town in N.J. with a population of 8,179 residents. And yet, when exposed to a network of more than a billion people on Facebook, the 12-year-old Clayton, N.J. girl soon learned that the word "friends" means something very different in the digital world.
Pasquale - who was found dead at the home of brothers Justin Robinson, 15, and Dante Robinson, 17, who lived near her in Clayton - was acquaintances with the brothers before she became friends with Justin on Facebook. But it was only on Facebook that she found they had a mutual interest: BMX motorcross bikes.
Days before the vicious murder, which reportedly ended with Pasquale stuffed in a blue recycling container, Pasquale started a conversation with Justin when she saw a photo of a bike that he had posted.
"Is that ur bike?" she wrote.
"Yeupp," he said.
"Thts sexy!" Pasquale gushed.
"lol thxx," Robinson responded. "... yes. cme 2 my house."
Four days later, Pasquale was reported missing. Now the residents in what was once viewed as a quaint town are left with the haunting notion that young members of Facebook don't have enough life experience to distinguish between true friends and so-called "friends of friends." Observers also question why the 12-year-old's Facebook page was still publicly accessible as of Wednesday morning, two days after her body was found.
On her Facebook page, Pasquale described herself like this: "hi. my name is autumn :). i like to hang out with my friends brielle,jessica,june,casey,and damian.i dont like fake ppl(rachel valverde) and i dont like little messengers that tell u things that another person wants to say if u have something to say say it to my face.i dont like getting in fights but i will kayla roberts knows. well i like to chill and ride my bike." BMX, "South Park" and "Family Guy" were three of her "likes." Her favorite quote? BMX 4 Life.
Ironically, it was a BMX bike that ultimately led to Pasquale's killing. Pasquale, who would have turned 13 in the fall, was first reported missing in October. A number of hours after she jumped onto her white Odyssey BMX bike she still had not returned to the home she lived in with her father, two siblings and father's girlfriend. For two days, 200 law enforcement officials searched for the blonde student who loved wearing her turquoise Neff cap. But it wasn't until later that they located the body.
Police said the brothers beat and strangled Pasquale after she was invited to their home to supposedly buy bicycle parts. Clayton resident Beverly Davis told USA Today that she wasn't surprised that the brothers were responsible for the murder. She recalled that one of them stole one of her children's bikes.
Strangely, it was a comment from Justin Robinson on Facebook that ultimately led investigators to the Robinson teens. Justin clicked the Like button on a "Find Autumn Pasquale" Facebook page that had more than 18,000 likes. Soon after, authorities delved further into the connections between Justin Robinson and Autumn Pasquale.
Like all of Pasquale's family and friends, her older brother A.J. spent a lot of time on Facebook trying to make sense of what happened. Before Justin Robinson's Facebook page was taken down, he wrote: "I know u won't see this but I'm just letting u know that I am coming for [you] next time I see ur face or ur brother donte [sic] I'm kicking ur asses."
Her father, Anthony Pasquale, a postal worker in Clayton, told reporters: "Everybody knows everybody [in this town] ... whether they're friends or acquaintances."