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Jurors watch serial killer hoax videos

Man faces charges for posting a false confession on the Internet

POSTED: May 19, 2010 11:53 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Prosecutors present evidence Wednesday in the case against Andrew Scott Haley, 27, who is on trial in Hall County Superior Court on charges of tampering with evidence and making false statements. The video portrayed is one that was posted on YouTube of a person whose face was digitally blacked out and whose voice was digitally altered. The person in the video gave supposed clues to unsolved murder cases.

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When a Gainesville man posted a false Internet confession to killing 16 people, he brought further emotional pain to two distressed families and caused investigators to waste hundreds of hours, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The defense attorney for Andrew Scott Haley countered that her client’s strange attempt at an Internet mystery game broke no law.

“It was creepy, it was hurtful, but it was not criminal,” public defender Kristin Jordan said.

Jurors in Haley’s trial on charges of tampering with evidence and making false statements watched the two videos that led to his criminal charges in Hall County Superior Court. Haley, 27, has admitted to creating and posting the videos, which he said was part of a game.

One of Haley’s videos got the attention of the family of a missing Orlando, Fla., woman after a link to it was posted on a Web page dedicated to Jennifer Kesse, who disappeared in January 2006.

The link on the video-sharing website YouTube was accompanied by the words “I may be able to help you.”

When Kesse’s father, Drew Kesse, clicked on the link in mid-February 2009, he saw a short video of a person whose face was digitally blacked out and whose voice was electronically altered. The user name for the person who posted the video was “catchmekiller.”

The video, Kesse testified Wednesday, “was in reference to 16 young women who were murdered.”

“At the time you saw this video ... did you think it could be the person responsible for your daughter’s disappearance?” Assistant District Attorney J.D. Hart asked Kesse.

“Yes, I thought it could be,” Kesse said. He contacted Orlando police.

Among the words spoken by “catchmekiller” in a deep, unnatural voice are “once all 16 bodies are found, you’ll know exactly who I am.”

“Every week there will be a new clue,” the speaker said in the video. “Every new clue will lead to a new body. Every new body leads to a new clue.”

The first clue soon had Georgia authorities involved.

At the end of the short video, white text on a black background describes attributes of a woman missing from Ocilla. The clues, including the date of her disappearance and a highway near where she went missing, point to the unsolved case of Tara Grinstead, GBI Special Agent Gary Rothwell testified Wednesday.

Rothwell said authorities had no choice but to look into the origins of the video.

“We had a person essentially confessing to the murder of Tara Grinstead, and we had to pursue that lead,” Rothwell said.

A second video was posted shortly after the first and contained supposed clues to the whereabouts of a victim’s hand in Augusta.

When GBI agents tracked down Haley at his Patterson Lane home in late February 2009, he admitted to making the videos, Rothwell testified.

“He stated it was a game and he was trying to get as many hits as he could on his website,” Rothwell said.

Asked by the defense attorney if Haley was apologetic, Rothwell said, “he didn’t think anybody would believe him, but I don’t recall any remorse or regret.”

Agents took Haley’s DNA to compare against evidence in the Grinstead case, but it did not match.

“We have nothing to indicate he was involved,” Rothwell said.

During his opening statement to jurors, Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer said Haley “worked hard to make this story as believable as possible.”

“He said, ‘It’s just a game,’ but it involves two real people, two real families,” Greer told the jury. “There are real consequences when you deal with real families and real hurt.”

Testimony in the trial continues today.



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