It underscores a persistent issue with amateur true crime sleuths that one TikTok sleuth’s post, in which he incorrectly claimed to have unearthed evidence connected to a woman’s disappearance, gained almost 5.9 million views.
Sean Austin, a TikToker, said in a video uploaded on September 12 that he had sent scuba divers to a river close to Farmington, Connecticut, to rescue a damaged rug.
He said that anything “shady” that his team had discovered earlier may be related to the abduction and likely murder of Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five from New Canaan, Connecticut, who was reported missing in May 2019.
The rug recovery was then broadcast live on his YouTube channel, where it attracted over 14,000 views.
However, the rug had no link to the Dulos case, according to Connecticut State Police, who helped the Farmington Police analyse it when it was found.
Detectives have discovered no evidence linking the rug to any pending criminal investigation, according to CSP. “After examining for many hours, Detectives examined numerous big, irregular brownish-red spots on the rug and a presumptive test revealed they were not blood,” the statement said.
Rugs are utilised to launch and recover kayaks and to keep weeds to a minimum at this Farmington River spot, the statement said.
Austin portrays himself as a demonologist and paranormal investigator and has more than 227,000 TikTok followers. He told Connecticut Insider that a “spirit box” had instructed him to “walk to the river” before he discovered the rug.
Austin is one of several TikTokers who use the app to highlight and look into incidents. Even while these videos may be quite successful (#truecrime has over 15 billion views, while #truecrimetiktok has over 4 billion), they are sometimes criticised for being exploitative or distributing false information.
Most notably, the September 2021 disappearance of van life influencer Gabby Petito became a TikTok hit as a result of the various videos made by true crime enthusiasts delving into what happened to her and looking for information that would assist the authorities find her. #gabbypetito has received over 2 billion views.
Such authors also encountered opposition. According to Alison Foreman of Mashable, “the abundance of genuine crime in the internet age has encouraged a breeding ground for amateur investigators and vigilantes,” which may make it harder for police to carry out their duties.
The “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” in which tales of crimes against white women are emphasised while those against women of colour are ignored in the media, is often reinforced by true crime on social media.
The ethics of using real-life crimes as entertainment on TV or social media have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.
Although Jennifer Dulos’ corpse was never discovered, police assumed she had passed away and accused her husband Fotis Dulos of killing her in January 2020. Later that month, according to the local newspaper Stanford Advocate, he committed himself.
According to CBS News, Fotis’ girlfriend Michelle Troconis has been charged with conspiring to commit murder, tampering with evidence, and interfering with the investigation.
His friend and attorney Kent Mawhinney has also been charged with conspiracy. Both are awaiting trial after entering not guilty pleas to all counts.
Insider’s request for comment from Austin did not get a response right away.
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