Tracking Killers Through Backpage

An explosive new murder case brewing in Boston, Massachusetts is shedding new light on the Backpage criminal empire today.

Cellphone records are being used by local and federal authorities as evidence in proceedings against a man from a sleepy suburb of the city who police say killed his young wife, a beloved elementary school teacher, in 2017.

These records show the suspect contacted the sex-peddling site Backpage according to the newly released legal filing.

The document was filed earlier this month in the case against Andrew MacCormack, 31, who’s charged in Suffolk Superior Court with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, 30-year-old Vanessa MacCormack, on Sept. 23, 2017, in the couple’s home.

Andrew MacCormack, who’s been held without bail since his arrest days after the slaying, has pleaded not guilty with his trial slated for Oct. 9. According to the prosecutors’ filing, police Detective Jon-Ricard Gibson uncovered the Backpage evidence when he analyzed the murder’s phone.

Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Ian Polumbaum, chief of his office’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, wrote in the filing: “[Detective] Gibson recognizes the web search entries in Andrew MacCormack’s phone as views of various escort ads on Backpage.com.”

The charging document went on to describe: “[Detective] Gibson further recognizes the messages starting at 12:37 a.m. Eastern time as consistent with negotiating sex for money on Backpage. When the phone user asks ‘Perfect 30 mins? And location,’ the unidentified escort responds simply ‘Peabody Rt. 1’.”

Though the filing didn’t specify exactly how prosecutors intend to use the valuable time-line evidence regarding Backpage ads at trial, the simple fact that authorities are using Backpage to prosecute crimes other than child sex trafficking opens an intriguing new possibility.

By providing the sort of shady platform Tony Ortega infamously haled as an American bastion of ‘free speech’, Backpage may inadvertently proved itself helpful to law enforcement – if only by bringing consolidating a wide range of criminals in one place and bringing them out of the shadows and into the light of the criminal prosecution system.

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