While the investigation goes on in to the disappearance of Taylor Behl, Taylor’s blogs give Richmond Police an intimate look into lives of teen and her friends.
Prior to her disappearance Taylor had an opportunity to put many things into her own personal blog.
Before she disappeared from a Richmond university four weeks ago, Taylor Marie Behl recorded her moods, her crushes, her insecurities in 50 entries she posted online over the span of 12 months. In language both spare and pensive, she detailed rites of passage, from earning her driver’s license to preparing for university.
With her chronicles, Behl, 17, of Vienna gained entry into a vast virtual community, a very public arena in which her writings were there for anyone to see at any time, a personal diary with no key.
One does wonder as to why so many provide so many personal accounts and details of their personal lives in forums open for all to see.
Now police also are privy to the disagreements that Behl had with her parents, her emotions on any given day, even her sexual exploits. By combing through the missing student’s online journal and profiles, they learned not only about her favorite musicians and movies but also about the many people with whom she was acquainted on the Internet — users with such online identities as “Citizen Cope” and “Chaos.”
As it turns out the internet has become are great forensic tool for investigators to get leads and clues.
The Internet, police said, has emerged as a virtual tip machine that often maps the course of an investigation. Within seconds, detectives are able to amass a great deal of information about someone, either through a search engine such as Google or on Web logs, such as the one that Behl maintained at LiveJournal.com, where more than 8 million people, most of them teenagers and college students, document their thoughts.
“It’s real surprising what people put out on the Internet about themselves, what they’re interested in, what they’re thinking,” said Richmond police Detective Jeff Deem, one of several officers assigned to Behl’s case. “Every case is different, but if we know that someone is a heavy Internet user, we’re going to go online and look around.”
Behl created her Web log, or blog, April 6, 2004. In her first entry, titled “Oh la la,” Behl wrote that her mother found out a boy had visited while she was out. “I’m just trouble,” she wrote. Two weeks later, she “decided that all boys suck.”
Mostly, Behl’s online writings captured the angst and mood swings typical among teenagers.
There were moments of sadness: “I now know that everyone is useless and really doesn’t care.”
There were moments of anger: “I’m so (expletive) tired of everyone making decisions in my best interest. Don’t I get a (expletive) say? NO. Sorry, not ’til you’re 18.”
And there were moments of utter and exposed joy: “I’ll have my own car on Sunday . . . yesssssssssssssss!”