A teen in Pennsylvania is being held without bail, after posting a selfie with the body of a 16-year-old classmate he is accused of killing.
Maxwell Marion Morton, 16, is being held without bail in the Westmoreland County juvenile detention center on charges of first-degree murder, homicide, and possession of a firearm by a minor in connection with the death of Ryan Mangan, according to Triblive.
Additionally, the teen is being charged as an adult, court papers say. The victim’s mother found the teen on Wednesday at their home in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, with a gunshot wound to the face, police says. The selfie taken by the teen shows the victim in the same position as he was found by authorities, which helped them identify and arrest the killer.
District Attorney John Peck — who has been a prosecutor for more than 30 years — says the teen’s selfie with the dead body is a first for him.
“I’ve never seen it before,” Peck said, “but it was a key piece of evidence that led investigators to the defendant.”
The selfie taken by the teen was sent using the popular app Snapchat, which allows users to post photos or videos and send them to friends. The images then self-delete after a brief period of time. However, the recipient of the selfie created a screenshot and alerted his mom, who called Westmoreland County 911, the police affidavit says.
“(Police) received a copy of the photo which depicted the victim sitting in the chair with a gunshot wound to the face. It also depicts a black male taking the ‘selfie,’ with his face facing the camera and the victim behind the actor. The photo had the name ‘Maxwell’ across the top.”
Morton confessed to killing his classmate after police discovered a 9 millimeter weapon hidden under the basement stairs, according to the affidavit. Although investigators found a 9mm casing in Mangan’s bedroom, they have not yet been matched it ballistically, the DA said.
The perpetrator also allegedly sent threatening text messages that read, “Told you I cleaned up the shells” and “Ryan (Mangan) was not the last one.”
Even though this is the first time the DA is prosecuting a case in which a criminal has used a selfie to brag about killing someone, in general it’s not unusual in the age of social media, according to Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and a psychology and social media instructor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California.
“This is really a question about criminal pathology rather than technology. Perpetrators in need of validating their power and sense of self-importance have used all kinds of communications to ‘brag’ about criminal activities — from the local hangout to social media, like Facebook.”
Peck said police will look at the teen’s cell phone for other evidence, such as selfies, and are still looking for a motive in the killing on Mangan. Morton — a high school football player — was not known to be a troublemaker, according to friends, who are shocked by the developments.
The suspect was arraigned on Friday. Both attended Jeannette High, which will have counselors available on Monday.
[Image via Triblive]