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"pretty frightening."
August 23, 2007 10:21 AM   Subscribe

On the internet, nobody knows the G-strings aren't yours. Or how murderously they infatuate. Or whom they're infatuating.
posted by Firas (85 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This article blew my mind when I read it. I would have found the whole thing entertaining if it hadn't ended in bloodshed.
posted by onalark at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2007


It reminds me of a line from someone about some recent investigation—along the lines of, "If this had been the plot of a Grisham novel, they'd call it too predictable." The symmetry is too perfect!
posted by Firas at 10:37 AM on August 23, 2007


Is anyone else somewhat surprised that this story didn't involve World of Warcraft in some way?
posted by clevershark at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


Holy fucking shit. Dollars to dimes Ms. Labi gets a book contract out of this.
posted by mwhybark at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2007


Wow.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2007


mwhybark writes "Holy fucking shit. Dollars to dimes Ms. Labi gets a book contract out of this."

How would it read?
so i wuz iming this guy and he wuz all 'u r soooo hawt' and i wuz like 'no wai!'.
posted by mullingitover at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I felt like fluid was running out of my ear after reading half of that.

By the end of it, I just... wow.
Just, wow.
posted by Tbola at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2007


Ah, the internet.
posted by puke & cry at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jesus.
posted by OmieWise at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2007


Read this yesterday in the print version. It's just insane. I wasn't expecting that twist.
posted by Meagan at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2007


When this hit the news here in Western NY, I had a feeling it would end being pretty big. I can even see a made-for-TV movie coming from it. Does William H. Macy do the small screen? He'd be the perfect Montgomery.
posted by tommasz at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2007


It's like a trailer park version of American Beauty. But so, so much more complicated.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2007


ahh the layers and layers, what a full circle crime. As a paralegal I would love to see this in front of a Grand Jury.
posted by Viomeda at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2007


I remember hearing about this story previously. I feel for that Barrett guy, though I'm having trouble saying why. He's like this innocent1 young guy who bumbles into a situation he thinks is perfectly normal, but in fact there's these wrinkled, scheming connivers trying to screw each other over and it all spills over into his lap.

1Not that I'd necessarily call him good, given his blabbing and bragging. But that's a long ways from deserving murder.
posted by DU at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2007


Incredible. I'm always floored at the double edged power of the imagination to both heal and delude. Everyone here basically became infatuated with a fantasy in their mind. Until 46 year old ex-marines and 45 year old ladies can be modified into 18 year olds again all this shit needs to be kept in perspective. It tells you a lot about what love is and isn't. An even more interesting ending would've been if "Tommy" and "Jessi" ended up meeting and fell in love anyway.
posted by Skygazer at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2007


It's the twist at the end that changes this whole story from typical love triangle murder to WTF?!?!?!?

Insane.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2007


See, this is why you actually meet a person before you start, oh I dunno, loading the damn guns to take some revenge.

Seriously, I wonder if some sort of insanity plea can be made.
posted by Talanvor at 11:10 AM on August 23, 2007


Seriously, I wonder if some sort of insanity plea can be made.

DId I read wrong or did Montgomery seem to believe that he was truly going to become an 18-year old Marine named Tommy at some point? Didn't he write that he wished he knew when the transformation was going to take place?

Because that's pretty nuts.
posted by amro at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2007


An even more interesting ending would've been if "Tommy" and "Jessi" ended up meeting and fell in love anyway.

Would have been too predictable. I kept thinking through the whole article she'd be willing to overlook his age, etc. When I started reading the "messages turning violent" aspect, I knew it wasn't going to end well.

I'd like to say that is a new phenomenon, but I've seen this type of thing play out on my own messageboards. Some married guy with a new wife who is perfectly content to spend hundreds of hours a week chatting up every female he can identify on the messageboard. Then turning on the ones who dislike his advances. All the while, he's got someone real sitting in the next room he could be interacting with. Granted none of the ones I've seen end up with gun play, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did. I've seen it a couple years ago, I used to see once in a while back in the 1980s on BBS messageboards.

What I can't figure out, is what do these people hope to gain from it?
posted by inthe80s at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2007


Yeah that's what I thought. A 40 something year old man petulently wondering why he hasn't become the "other" guy already.
posted by Talanvor at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2007


What I can't figure out, is what do these people hope to gain from it?

Reproduction of their genes.
posted by DU at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2007


It's amazing to me all of the relationships here were virtual, but more real and powerful for that. People's loneliness is a powerful force.
posted by Nelson at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2007


All the while, he's got someone real sitting in the next room he could be interacting with.

Ah, but he doesn't want "interaction." He wants drama. Young studs, swooning babes, a world of peons who just don't understand...

You don't get that from someone who's already sitting quietly in the next room.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2007


Is anyone else somewhat surprised that this story didn't involve World of Warcraft in some way?

No, not really.

I'm a pretty heavy Pogo user. The middle-aged casual gamers that like to chat while playing Lottso or Word Whomp Whackdown are usually more egregious than the leetsauce kids in Barrens Chat in WoW. Egregious in a different way, but still pretty fucked in the head. I find it astonishing that so many people will share so much detail on their personal lives, in online chat with people they don't know. And there is inevitably some kind of unbelievable drama; it's a good bet that a signifcant amount of this drama is fictionalized.

So you've got tens of thousands of people playing First Class Solitaire all day while making up stories about how their husband done left them and their kid got busted for Oxycontin or whatever. That sure overshadows some RetNoob whining that his mom won't let him stay online for one more run in Alterac Valley or threatening to /gquit because he can't get a Karazhan slot.

Which is why I usually keep my chat turned off.

If you do even a casual Google search, you'll find dozens or hundreds of complaints about people stalking each other on Pogo. There's comparatively little of that in WoW.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:30 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Err.., he wants validation.

Insecurity is the root of all evil.
posted by LordSludge at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2007


Sometimes, I really hate living in an age where all this happens; it's all so strange and creepy. The idiots are taking over the world and the computer becomes the incentive. I think forensic psychology is fascinating but it's as if there are more and more tools to aid people in their insanity. It's a whole new world; cops are professionals at sleuthing out the child sex offenders on the internet everyday. Then each one is put on a fancy probation, if they're lucky. This is all too common for me.
posted by Viomeda at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2007


What I can't figure out, is what do these people hope to gain from it?

Favorites?
posted by quin at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2007 [10 favorites]


Would have been too predictable.

I don't know about that. I can see "Jessi" making that jump somehow, but not "Tommy". I think it was predictable that "Jessi" was going to end up being a middle aged lady. What I really want to know is, When the person formerly known as Montgomery shot Barrett was he acting as Montgomery or as "Tommy"?
posted by Skygazer at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2007


Straight up bizarre. This isn't an internet thing, this is good old-fashioned crazy facilitated by IM.

And this is making my damn head itch; there was another weird internet-love-triangle-murder post a while back, I think, and I can't remember what it was.
posted by cortex at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2007


I'm glad that, for whatever reason, that written diarrhea of lowercase punctuation-free language is an instant and complete turnoff.

I had a relative die recently and got the job of cleaning off his computers for his kids to use. He was separated from his wife; there were chat transcripts with a woman he'd never met 600 miles away. He had lied about his name although most other details seemed accurate. Some of it did seem to be typed one-handed. I wonder if that woman, assuming she was who she said she was, knows that he died, or if her chat buddy just stopped showing up one day.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2007


This was a preventable tragedy.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


This was probably the strangest story I've heard in a while. I'm going to forward this to my homicide investigation professor -- he'd probably get a kick out of it.
posted by fallenposters at 11:55 AM on August 23, 2007


"he told her, and his father was a military man. At 17, Tommy had raped a cheerleader, and his life became so hopeless that he enlisted in the Marines."

Why it's no surprise she was duped what with such romantic tales.
posted by kigpig at 12:01 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this what happens to douchebags and hotties when they grow up?
posted by bashos_frog at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2007


I love how sensible/steady the guy's wife is (writing him a note that 'if you want to split, we can, but this won't do'.) I would have flipped. Although I guess the note probably came well after she first confronted him.

Viomedia, speaking of psychology—isn't there some sort of connection between the frailty with which this guy considers real identities (me vs. Tommy, whom I can just morph into) and the ease with which he decides to off the romantic rival? He's just plucking Barret out of the scene, and even goes online to taunt her later about Barret still being alive. Like if this was a novel and I was doing an expository essay that's the first thing I'd seize on here—the pervasive shimmying between real and unreal, which bleeds into ambiguity between life and death, a bit like Poe.

Nelson, I don't really see the inversion you're pointing out between virtualness of the relationships and the reality with which they manifested. The relationships in question are actually pretty immature (you flirt with me, I make you feel wanted, you get jealous)—that's pretty much the end of the narrative arc as far as their romance is concerned. Well I guess there's the whole off to war thing.

kittens for breakfast, there's definitely a 'white trash'/trailer park aesthetic here but I can't quite put my finger on why it evokes that sort of cultural cues for me. Something about wanting to be a marine, I guess, rather than some hotshot rich guy, and the utter pettiness of the love triangle.
posted by Firas at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2007


That is was preventable makes it all the more attractive and ironic, now I'm remembering eighth grade English class.
posted by Viomeda at 12:09 PM on August 23, 2007


there was another weird internet-love-triangle-murder post a while back, I think, and I can't remember what it was.
posted by cortex at 2:42 PM on August 23 [+] [!]

That was bothering me the whole time I read this. I thought that it was two guys that worked in the same factory too. But it is getting mixed up in my head with the guy who drove cross country to burn down the trailer of the guy who had insulted him on the internet. A lot of weirdness out there. The internet just gives people a greater chance to connect with others as messed up as they are.
posted by ND¢ at 12:13 PM on August 23, 2007


Metafilter: The internet just gives people a greater chance to connect with others as messed up as they are.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


As I was writing that I was thinking "This is going to get turned into a tagline."
posted by ND¢ at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


yeah all true, but i think the article plays up, the multiple identity thing. I'm sure the guy was sick of his life and totally bored with the mundane but that doesn't qualify as a cracking point, which is common with criminal activity. He sure cracked when Barrett showed up but that seems to be a case of severe jealousy since he was already discolsed. His multiple personalities are a result of a strange mid life crisis. Some men find their new identity with a new car, some men (and women) take the creepy route and go on the discreet internet and be who they can't be at home.

or not, this is just a hypothesis, a little wacko but not committable.
posted by Viomeda at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2007


The only surprise, for me, was that "Jessi" actually ended up being a real-life female instead of another middle-aged guy.
posted by lekvar at 12:34 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


The only surprise, for me, was that "Jessi" actually ended up being a real-life female

KAYCEE CAN YA HEAR ME!
posted by cortex at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2007


This reminded me of Scooby Doo when they start ripping the rubber masks off of the criminals.
posted by Eekacat at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


These Premises Are Alarmed writes "He had lied about his name although most other details seemed accurate. Some of it did seem to be typed one-handed."

If I was into such things I'd lie about my name and be mostly truthful about everything else. You never can tell when the person on the other end might turn out to be a rabbit boiler and in such a case it might be best if they have at least a little bit of trouble tracking you down.

Firas writes "Something about wanting to be a marine, I guess, rather than some hotshot rich guy"

Probably of the two things this guys knows (Marines and Autoparts) the Marine is more exciting. Plus it gave him a good excuse to be unreachable physically. Nothing worse than having your 17 year old internet girlfriend hitchhike across the country and show up on your door step. Especially when your wife answers the door.
posted by Mitheral at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2007


By the way - reading the chat logs of a dead relative? Not recommended.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2007


We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

Man, the world would be a better place if people gave pretending to be sane and happy with what they have a shot.

This reminded me of Scooby Doo when they start ripping the rubber masks off of the criminals.

"I would've gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling middle-aged housewives and factory workers pretending to be kids!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:07 PM on August 23, 2007


I told u I was hardcore
posted by Justinian at 1:09 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Seriously, I wonder if some sort of insanity plea can be made.

Probably not - regardless of whether he was acting as himself or as Tommy, he was doing something he knew was illegal. If he was acting as Tommy and thought he was playing duck hunt, that would be a different story.
posted by fermezporte at 1:11 PM on August 23, 2007


That's pretty incredible. Hopefully when it gets turned into a book, the IM transcripts in the appendix will be edited: u -> you, 2 -> too, to, etc.

That way it'll actually be readable and we'll get to see the full progression of bored to stalker to crazy to killer.
posted by supercres at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2007


Life is the crummiest book I've ever read, there isn't a hook, just a lot of cheap shots, pictures to shock, and characters an amateur would never dream up.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

/BR
posted by Debaser626 at 1:20 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and..

This was a preventable tragedy.

I was thinking the same thing, but with this link.
posted by supercres at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh Viomeda I definitely agree that the guy wasn't neurotic and that the "I wish I was somebody else so I'll pretend to be him" is a pretty normal sort of thought process.
posted by Firas at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2007


This is why we're never getting our own holodecks.
posted by mecran01 at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2007


Nadya Labi is an amazing journalist [disclosure: i have met her].

This is an earlier, mind-blowing piece about a guy who admits having sexually abused a stepdaughter who works kidnapping teens out of their beds at 3am, to take them to tough love programs.

He's still in business.
posted by Maias at 1:34 PM on August 23, 2007


Note that he pled to manslaughter just a few days ago, after a DNA finding worthy of CSI. 20 year minimum.
posted by nanojath at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2007


yeah kinda hard to avoid.
posted by Viomeda at 1:46 PM on August 23, 2007


Metafilter: As I was writing that I was thinking "This is going to get turned into a tagline."
posted by Skygazer at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


LOLHUMANS
posted by davejay at 2:19 PM on August 23, 2007


Anyone else vaguely embarrassed about this? I mean, in theory we're all the same species.
posted by maxwelton at 2:25 PM on August 23, 2007


The guy was facing 15-25 and pled to a 20 year minimum. All weirdness and tragedy aside, that sounds like a fairly poor outcome in the strictly legal wrangling sense. I would have thought that all the convolutions and outlandish reality of the case would fold in a fair allowance for 'mitigation'. An insanity defence would be at least a plausible tactic to most people on a broad brush view of the circumstances - t'would have thought that would offer some leverage that the prosecution would concede.
posted by peacay at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2007


While I'm confident Montgomery is a jerk, let's look at it from a broader perspective.

Let's assume Montgomery was a good person. What is it about being on a chat room, etc, that changed him from a good and loving father to a jealous murdering semi-pedophile?

The answer is that identity is not a fixed quantity. His, and everyone's, identity changes with context. Most people have lived their identity so long that only minor changes are made in different contexts. Others, with less time "as" an identity-- consider teenagers-- change, feel out different nuances, etc.

But another way to rapidly alter an identity is to drastically change the environment.

A misconception is that people in the internet lie about who they are. But it's more than that: you aren't anyone until you decide who you are. The internet is a new context, new environment, for your identity. If you choose to be someone else, what you find is that you will actually always be that person on the internet. In effect, "Montgomery" was the fake identity on the chat rooms. He was "really" Tommy, consistently, in that environment. His thinking changes, his language changes-- he's a method actor.

"On the internet, no one knows you are a dog." Well, actually, on the internet, you really aren't a dog.

People with weak identity structures are more susceptible to these alterations. Being anyone you want is very seductive to someone who isn't really anyone.

I'm not trying to justify his behavior, quite the opposite. He, and others like him, really become the people they pretend to be. And once they decide to be a dog, you should hide your cats.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


semi-pedophile?

As nuts as this guy is nothing he has done suggests peadophillia.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:49 PM on August 23, 2007


So is the internet changing us profoundly? Looks like the tip of the iceberg to me. Maybe not all bad, though this is side-splitting stuff.
posted by fcummins at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2007


peadophillia

I love peas. Does that make me a peadophile? ; )
posted by ericb at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2007


This is one of the most interesting things I've read in ages! Thanks for posting this.
posted by jonson at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


BTW -- I hate 'Brussel Sprouts.' I am indeed a BrassicaOleraceaphobe!
posted by ericb at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2007


And this is making my damn head itch; there was another weird internet-love-triangle-murder post a while back, I think, and I can't remember what it was.
posted by cortex


Is this it? The last link goes to the tale of the two star-crossed gamers.
posted by M Edward at 3:42 PM on August 23, 2007


No, that's not it, though that's an interesting find. I'm beginning to wonder if I read an older, less-thorough report on this same case at some point via a different source. Oh well.
posted by cortex at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2007


There was Hans Reiser, badass kernel hacker, who's assumed to have killed his wife. But that was less internet-related.
posted by Firas at 4:18 PM on August 23, 2007


I remember the time when internet romance was only for crackpots and weirdos.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:54 PM on August 23, 2007


That's all just so creepy. I can't imagine what I'd have done if that'd been my own dad, or mum!
posted by Surfyournut at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2007


The more he pressed, the more nervous she got until she finally "came clean," as Kirk put it. She was the woman Kenyon had spoken to. In fact, she was the woman Barrett had fallen so hard for. And yes, Mary was the woman Montgomery may have killed for. She'd used her daughter's identity to beguile the two men.

Gee, I totally didn't see that coming from the second paragraph onwards!

Compelling reading, though.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on August 23, 2007


Virtual O. Henry.

A fascinating read.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:51 PM on August 23, 2007


The chick wins again.
posted by Senator at 7:33 PM on August 23, 2007


maxwelton writes "Anyone else vaguely embarrassed about this? I mean, in theory we're all the same species."

Screw that. You didn't see this kind of thing when there was a minimal bar to entry. Not that there wasn't insanity but it wasn't this kind of insanity.
posted by Mitheral at 7:51 PM on August 23, 2007


"DId I read wrong or did Montgomery seem to believe that he was truly going to become an 18-year old Marine named Tommy at some point?"

That's what I understood that to say too. Last I heard us middle-aged men were only having sex changes; I'd much prefer whatever kind of operation and/or hoodoo Montgomery was planning, though if I could have a hot buff young body without joining the Marines I'd much prefer that.

As far as the subject of online deceit goes, I'd be absolutely heartbroken if I found out quonsar didn't really have real fish in his pants.
posted by davy at 8:46 PM on August 23, 2007


The guy was facing 15-25 and pled to a 20 year minimum. All weirdness and tragedy aside, that sounds like a fairly poor outcome in the strictly legal wrangling sense.

That was if the jury found him guilty of first-degree manslaughter, which is what he plead to. If he had been found guilty of second-degree murder, a distinct possibility, he would have faced 25 to life.

Chances at parole are likely much higher with a manslaughter plea as well.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 AM on August 24, 2007


this is the trainwreckiest trainwreck i've heard of in a while.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:18 AM on August 24, 2007


Wow. I remember when the shooting happened last fall and it was so bizarre (location, victim) at the time that everyone commented on how it didn't add up in any way. Of course, we didn't know all this then.
posted by jdfan at 7:27 AM on August 24, 2007


Thanks dhartung. I didn't see that little snip after the reporter's name at the end of the article. I had assumed he had originally been charged with 1st deg. manslaughter, as a murder charge wasn't mentioned.
posted by peacay at 7:50 AM on August 24, 2007


Insane. Absolutely insane.

I'm never surprised by the false identities people invent online. Years and years ago---early in high school---I played this one online game. A lot. I was in a clan and although I didn't take it extremely seriously, I cared about the people I 'saw' online almost every day.

One of our members broke the news that she had cancer and needed surgery. I was young mind you---maybe fifteen years old---and I remember being very upset about it. Hoping it would go well, that she would make it, etc. She went through all the motions of preparing and then having the surgery, and everyone was glad to hear it was going well.

Well somewhere along the way she came clean. She never had cancer. There was no surgery. But the real kicker is that she somehow used the controversy to join a better clan. She had come clean to them and they helped her apologize to us. During all of that, she had grown closer to them and they invited her to join their more prestigious unit. She gladly accepted and everyone pretty much pretended the whole loopy episode hadn't occurred.

It's fairly easy to assume that she was really a he, but there was never any confession claiming such. Eventually she faded away and a new, male member of their clan mysteriously appeared some time later. No connection between the two was ever made concrete.

Anyway, I realize this is tiny and inconsequential compared to broken marriages, ruined lives and murder, but it definitely made me a lot more skeptical about believing strangers online... and I was already pretty damn skeptical.
posted by defenestration at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2007


By the way, I'm really a h4wt 18 year old blonde "coed" named Melissa. Who wants my bunched-up panties? (Sorry, fish not included.)
posted by davy at 9:55 AM on August 24, 2007


Hey, davy Melissa! Check out my Facebook profile...
posted by LordSludge at 11:42 AM on August 24, 2007


What a missed opportunity to show a young marine appreciation for his service. Find a kid fresh from Iraq that fits the description, toss him the "Tommy dossier", and wish him luck with his new ready-made hot girlfriend.
posted by dr_dank at 4:30 PM on August 24, 2007


A ready-made hot middle-aged married housewife girlfriend. Score!
posted by cortex at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2007


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