The internet can be cruel and unforgiving. And Bianca Devins, a teen from New York, U.S., experienced this first hand. And also in person even after her death.
Devins was just a recent high school graduate, a student at Mohawk Valley Community College with a dream of getting a degree in psychology in order to help people with mental illness.
She was stabbed to death in Utica, a city in the New York State, on July 14, 2019, shortly after attending a concert in New York City. The case gained made headlines around the world, simply because pictures of Devins' deceased body were shared on the internet by the killer.
It was speculated that Devins was killed by an online stalker.
But after investigations, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara revealed that the prosecutors believe Devins was murdered by an someone she actually knew.
It was believed that Devins even had a romantic relationship with her killer.
The name is Brandon Clark. He was 21-years-old Lyft driver when he murdered Devins.
Clark killed Devins after accompanying her to the concert for Nicole Dollanganger, a Canadian singer-songwriter and artist that is known for her music that frequently pertain sexuality, violence, sexual violence, BDSM, poverty, self-harm, eating disorders, loss and struggles with mental health.
It all began when Bianca Devins met Brandon Clark on Instagram earlier in 2019.
After keeping their communication strictly on the platform, they started meeting in person months later. At that time, Clark attended Devins' graduation party. They quickly became friends, but Devins was also quick in realizing that Clark "wanted more" than just a friendship.
Clark often referred to himself as Devins' boyfriend despite her saying otherwise.
It was found that Clark was obsessed with Devins, that his internet history was full on her. Clark searched for her name, and frequently checked her social media accounts, and also saved many of her photos.
Clark that seemed to be Devins' stalker, grew up in an unstable family, where he experienced seeing his father abusing his mother. At one point, Clark was forced to being placed in state foster care. But still, Devins' mother described Clark as "charming" and "polite".
As for Devins, she too had experienced some rather dark past.
She was said to have struggled with mental illness that include depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These were the result of her strained relationship with her father.
Due to her illness, she was reportedly seeking refuge in online communities, where she can share and befriend with people.
Places she frequently spent online, include platforms like Discord and 4chan.
According a mental-health counselor Devins once confided with, Devins had fantasized about injuring herself by jumping off a roof.
One day, Devins and Clark was on their way to the concert and met another friend named Alex.
After smoking marijuana in Clark's car, the three went to Dollanganger's concert. It was during that time that Clark saw Devins kissed Alex. This angered Clark.
When the concert ended, Devins slept in the back on Clark's car. Clark who was jealous, tried to make Devins explain why she kissed Alex. Devins apologized, but said that they were in an open relationship, meaning that they were non-monogamous.
Clark that had his anger peaked, began assaulting Devins, and eventually repeatedly sliced her neck with a knife he hid behind his seat.
Fatally wounded, Devins died.
After the gruesome act, Clark posted pictures of her dead body on Discord. As if taunting Devins' male followers on the platform, Clark posted them with the caption:
"Sorry fuckers, you’re going to have find someone else to orbit."
Shortly after Clark uploaded the footage to Discord, others started sharing it on messaging boards, as well as on Instagram, with the hashtag #RIPBianca. The gruesome murder was documented on the web, and went viral for anyone to see at the time.
Quickly, the Oneida County Dispatch received numerous calls informing them that a man posted a murder on a social media site, saying that he was also threatening to harm himself.
Just when The Utica Police Department began an in-depth search for the two, Clark called 911 and made incriminating statements. Just like what the police has received from reports, Clark was suicidal at the time.
"My name is Brandon, the victim is Bianca Michelle Devins, I'm not going to stay on the phone for long because I still need to do the suicide part of the murder-suicide," he said in the 911 call.
After determining that the call came from Poe St in Utica, officers were dispatched to the wooded area.
The officers found a black SUV parked in the quiet area, with a man lying on the ground beside it.
When the officers approached the man with caution, and asked where the woman was, the man said that beneath the tarp, was the female he killed.
This was when they found a colored tarp not far from the SUV where they were standing. The officers were alarmed after they noticed protruding brown hair from beneath the tarp.
And it was indeed beneath the tarp, that the officers saw that Devins suffered extensive injuries to her neck, which almost decapitated her.
After thinking that the man was unarmed and when the officers were focusing on what was beneath the tarp, that Clark took out his smartphone. it was at this time that it's believed he took photos with Devins by laying across her deceased body.
"I’m sorry Bianca," the caption on the since-deleted photo reads.
Before the officers realize what was going on after that, the man almost immediately began stabbing himself in the neck with a knife.
His life was saved after being transported to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital by the emergency care unit that arrived soon after. Clark's life was spared after he underwent emergency surgery.
At first, the police believed that Clark was angered, probably due to jealousy. But after seeking for evidence from the crime scene, they found that Clark actually had planned to murder her, as the police recovered duct tape, knives, rope and other tools at the scene of his arrest.
The police also found what seems to be a suicide note at his relative’s home.
It was reported that the police also found another message near Devins' deceased body, which reads: "May you never forget me".
In the wake of Bianca Devin’s death, her photos continued to spread.
This made social media companies, most notably Facebook, to block Clark's account on both Facebook and Instagram to contain the spread. It also created signatures for the photos to prevent them from being shared, and also blacklisted the hashtag #yesjuliet.
As for Discord, it was forced to unplug the server where Devins' deceased body was shared.
Despite the attempts, people kept on spreading the gruesome photos.
The authorities, Devins' family members, and even Nicole Dollanganger herself asked people to stop sharing the photos. But yet again, the internet can be unforgiving.
Hundreds of social media accounts, both old and new, started claiming that they have all of the photos, and asked people to follow their accounts first and spread the word, if they want to see the pictures. It also spread fast on sites like 4chan.
In other words, Devins' death was exploited on the internet.
Bianca’s mother Kimberly has lobbied for social media platforms to amend their policies in order to stop the spread of such gruesome photos.
Kimberley and the rest of the family were relieved by the guilty verdict, which stopped a trial, which would have included the video footage Clark took.
“[We’re] relieved,” said Kimberly. “I’m glad we don’t have to go through the trial.”
"I’m grateful he has chosen to plead guilty. Bianca did not deserve this, she did not deserve this,’ said Devins’ grandfather, Frank Williams.
Devins was said to be a social media influencer.
Among other reasons, most of Devins' fame came after her death not only happened because of her gruesome death, but also because of her 'e-girl' influencer status, where she often referred herself to as a cute and innocent girl.
But it was later suggested that her fame was caused by the many publications by the media. News may have exaggerated the case, and the teen's notoriety, which in turn made her followers counts to skyrocket.
Murder that is publicized on the internet, is said to be one the ways for the murderer to generate attention and generate fame. Flaunting crimes in nothing new, and the internet (social media, forums and so forth), allow the deranged murderer to amplify the message.
This is almost similar to the murder that was orchestrated by the "Snapchat Queen" in 2016.
Investigator Peter Paladino said that Clark murdered Devins in order to differentiate himself from the other "beta orbiters". Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Sarah DeMellier claimed Clark has told "different people in his life different reasons why he did what he did".
For the murderer, this can give the feeling of having control. As a man, the murderer may feel a boost in masculinity that is connected to his social status.
On July 29, 2019, Brandon Clark, the murder suspect, faces 25 years to life in jail after he initially pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
With the sentencing commence for months, delays happened because of the 'COVID-19' coronavirus pandemic.
Then in June 2, 2020, Clark filed a notice to withdraw his guilty plea. This happened after Clark told the court that he started reading books about laws and started reviewing his own case. Displeased with his previous lawyer, Clark was allowed to get another lawyer.
And later for the second time, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the increase in virus cases across the U.S., the New York court systems are again limiting in-person court appearances.
This means the scheduled sentencing of convicted killer Brandon A. Clark in Utica has been adjourned for the second time due to COVID-19.
Devins' mother criticized the prosecution for portraying him as a "manipulative monster", that after it was reported that Clark's browsing history included searches on how to find the carotid artery, which is the artery that branched out directly from the aorta, which carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain via the neck.
There were also searches about how to incapacitate or kill someone, and searches about how to choke and hang someone.
The mother believes that Clark had planned to murder her daughter all along.
On September 21, 2020, Brindisi and Devins' family introduced "Bianca's law".
The family proposed a legislation to require all social media networks with more than $10 million in revenue and more than 100,000 monthly users to establish an office dedicated to identifying and removing violent content that violates their moderation standards.
While Clark pleaded not guilty, he did reportedly expressed remorse in court.
"I think I need to realize what I did I can’t undo, as much as I want to … I apologize to all the people that knew and loved her. I apologize to everybody affected by this, to everybody who had to see that horrific picture of her. I know sorry is not enough and it won’t take back what I did. I wish I had more to give,” Clark said.
Bianca Devins was only 17 when she died. Her funeral took place on July 19, 2019.
In March 2021, Clark who was responsible for the gruesome death Bianca Devins, has been sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison, incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum security campus New York State prison in the town of Attica, New York.
Brandon can only become eligible for parole on July 10, 2044.
Clark who is a Cicero native, appeared in court after pleading guilty to the second-degree murder a year earlier.
"I hate myself for what I did to her. I don't understand how I could do something like that," he said addressing his regrets to himself, at the court in Utica. "I hate myself for what I did. I'm so sorry I put everyone through this. I'm so sorry that I put Bianca through this."
Devins' family was present for the sentencing, speaking beforehand.
Sister Olivia who appeared at the court, is 17, the same age as Bianca when she was killed.
She said that she kept seeing photos of her sister in the most gruesome conditions posted by unknown people. She even had to delete her social media accounts because of this.
"Many random people set their profile pictures as my sister's death photo and went on my page knowing I would, without a doubt, see it," said Olivia in tears. "The picture, to this day, continues to be sent to me, but I now have all of my social media accounts deleted."
Olivia also said that she has been experiencing terrifying and vivid nightmares, and said that she has developed fears of meeting anyone new since her sister’s death.
"We are more cautious, and sometimes very apprehensive about going out in public. We're all very guarded of all of the young children in the family," said Frank Williams, Bianca's grandfather. "Our deepest thoughts now are with Bianca, our angel, who has given so much love to this family, to her friends, and the legacy she's going to give to us forever," Williams said.
To Clark, Williams said that, should he ever be eligible for and seek parole, "you can be certain that our family will represent Bianca and will ask the reviewing board to consider."
She had a bright future, and that was taken from her, mother Kimberly said.
And because of that, she was the first to implored the judge to sentence Clark to prison "for the rest of his life."
"We seek closure in regards to the crime that took our beautiful angel from us by respectfully asking the court...to make sure that Brandon Clark remains in prison for the rest of his life, so that he cannot harm anyone else and inflict this horrific pain on any other family," she said.
For her, the worst part is that she won't ever receive abt more hugs, kisses or "I love yous" from her daughter.
She added that the family has waited a long time for this sentencing to happen.
With Clark's sentence, the chapter for this case was hoped to end.
But not entirely, as later in 2021, an upstate New York district attorney’s office was accused for distributing the videos of Bianca Devins.
The videos include child pornography, because Devins was under 18, and also a video of her being murdered. The videos were given to the press, and this is considered a violation of federal law.
That according to a lawsuit filed on July 15th, 2021.
It was realized that Brandon Clark has set up a camera in his car, so he could film himself having sex with Bianca Devins, and right after, also filming himself slit her throat as she pleaded for her life.
Devins' mother was assured by two Oneida prosecutors, that the videos wouldn’t ever be released to the public. But to her “horror,” she later found out that office shared them with CBS 48 Hours, A&E, a confidante of Clark with a popular YouTube channel and possibly MTV and Peacock TV, the suit explained.
Making things worse, the office also shared nude images of Bianca Devins that were taken from her phone after it was seized from the murder scene, the suit claimed.
“When confronted, Assistant District Attorneys Sarah DeMellier and Michael Nolan admitted the DA’s office had shared the content,” the suit stated. “Kimberly was shattered that her daughter’s murder video and sex video had been released.”
She said that her daughter's death was already her "worst nightmare." And it seems that things don't want to settle, saying that things feel like a horror film on repeat.
“Our family is forced to live the violence over and over on social media because of what the murderer posted. It’s unbearable that the ones who were supposed to protect Bianca – the DA’s Office – are instead engaging in child pornography as if she has no right to privacy,” Bianca's mother said.
“The DA’s office has been reckless and casual with who they provide my daughter’s private images and last living moments with; meanwhile they refuse to let her own family see the evidence.”
This incident is considered a tragedy, since the imagery and footage are considered evidence, and the harm the content can make if released outweighs the public's interest in seeing them. This is why the police often withhold such information.
When the Devins' family confronted the office about it, they said New York’s child porn laws does not apply to Bianca because she was 17 at the time of the murder. Therefore, they had the right to spread her nude images and sex video if they want to.
“Kimberly and her counsel specified federal child pornography laws apply to depictions of children under the age of 18 and also notwithstanding the law that Bianca, even in her death, had a right to sexual privacy,” the suit stated.
The suit described it as an "unconscionable dissemination of snuff and child pornography of a 17-year-old murder victim."
The lawsuit claims that images and videos of Devins shared should be considered child pornography under federal law, although under New York State law the imagery would only apply to children younger than 17.
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial to be held, and that the district attorney's office cease sharing any photo or video evidence of Devins, and pay compensation for legal costs, punitive damages and $150,000 per each item of evidence each time it is shared.
In all, the family members are subjects of a so-called "psychological terrorism," which furthers the physical crime to hurt the family members psychologically.
"I guess I just had an immediate mother’s instinct of like, we need to fix this," said Devins' mother. "And my first thought is I need to protect my daughter’s dignity. She was being exploited all over the Internet after her death. And that just wasn’t okay with me […] You know, we’re going through everyone’s absolute worst nightmare. The worst thing you can do is lose a child, especially to murder. And then to have the pictures of that all over the internet, people being harassed, we were being harassed […] .”
Because social media companies have been slow to response, some online users have began to flood Bianca's campaigns's hashtags with images of pink skies, rainbows and fan art of Bianca. That, in order to push down the death images of Bianca in the search results.
In a related news, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said he is not planning for a re-election in 2023. Among his reasons, include the Bianca Devins case.
"Watching the video tape of Bianca being murdered and dying, you start to say, 'there's a better part of this world I'd like to enjoy,'" he said.
In January 2022, the New York State Assembly passed a version of Bianca's law.
This law would make it a crime to post, share or publish personal images with the intent to degrade or abuse someone who has been the victim of a crime, while also causing emotional, financial or physical harm to the victim or their family.
According to an Assembly woman, the bill would create criminal and civil penalties for anyone who disseminate personal images.