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The following article was authored by Taylor Smith Hastings, a Chapel Hill NC attorney.  More information about Taylor and his firm can be found on his website:


WRAL reported on the latest of a bewildering tale of increasingly tragic proportions involving the murder of a North Carolina man this week. Florida authorities arrested and extradited Kenneth Morgan Stancil III on suspicion of the murder of Ron Lane, a worker at Wayne County Community College. Stancil’s chilling and unapologetic admission to the crime and his bigoted justifications for the killing overshadowed the lurking dangers of social media and its increasingly forceful role in today’s society.


Crazy neo-Nazi hater

Stancil proudly took responsibility for the murder, at first even refusing court appointed counsel, because he purged the earth of a homosexual. He admitted membership to a neo-Nazi group that rallies around anciently held hateful beliefs, but even louder than his words was his look and demeanor: calm, cool, facially tatted and shaved. According to WRAL, Stancil worked for Lane but got wind of Lane’s message to Stancil’s younger brother whereupon Lane sought sexual relations.


How did Lane reach Stancil’s younger brother? A Facebook message. Stancil came across the message online, became enraged at the homosexual advance, and walked casually into work to kill Lane. He shot Lane dead with a 12-guage shotgun.


“If you fall in my top eight, I will kill you,” Stancil explained to Judge Arnold O. Jones while in court. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stancil struggled to compose himself when the court would not entertain his speech. He attempted to flip the defense table in disgust.  As he was handcuffed, he did not succeed.


Watch out who you “friend”, and monitor your privacy settings

There are layers of this tragedy that thicken the narrative of Lane’s untimely death. Almost all of them deserve rightful attention, but what is becoming all too commonplace is that social media somehow threads events like this together. Facebook can be an excellent place to connect with society in unprecedented ways. Unfortunately, that can occasionally be a bad thing. Stancil’s brother was 16. Lane would never have dared such an encounter in-person with the risk Stancil would react negatively. Facebook allows for a level of detachment that emboldens users with a sense of comfort either from others or law enforcement. It propagates a culture of harassment with seeming detachment from consequences. But there are consequences; and, perhaps they are not this extreme all the time, but they’re evident upon the recipient nonetheless.


Privacy concerns are not new but are becoming increasingly tragic. Perhaps the silver lining is that higher profile cases like this may shed more awareness to social media users that prompts caution with its use.