Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Of Bodies And Bellwethers

Back in September I blogged about a woman, Liya Lu, whose body was found stuffed into a trash can in Pasadena. Her boyfriend, Isaac Campbell, got extradited from Minnesotta and is being held in Pitchess awaiting trial. He's got a court date for the 28th of this month. It's going to get dragged out for a very long time, I'm sure.

This morning I got an email asking for more information and one with some info, later posted as a comment, that Liya called the cops on Isaac after she found that he was dealing and that a "friend of a friend of a friend" had been recently held (now released) in connection with the case because he had been asked to help move the body. I have no names or other details.

Frank Giradot over at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune was covering the murder over at the Tribune's crime blog, Crime Scene, and has done a much more thorough job than anything I might have posted. Check him out. He writes good stuff. Particularly his coverage of the recent Monrovia gang killings. Like a fucking war zone over there.

Anyway, I have gotten more comments and hits on the handful of posts I did on the Liya Lu murder than any other. I think I had something like 300 page hits in a day. I usually get between 60 and 80. Yeah I know, not exactly one of the popular kids.

As usual, things have died down on the comments, but I've noticed a pattern that starts with emails and the occasional post of an anonymous tip then mushrooms into a short burst of comments and searches and then a fade into nothing for a while. Then it starts up again. I get the same pattern with questions about fire captain David Del Toro. In fact, as I write this, another comment on Mr. Del Toro has just been posted.

Whenever this happens I always wonder why. Is it a build up of pressure from not enough information? In our media saturated age it's easy to think that everything can be Googled. Not having access to news, those thin slices of truth that by their nature can't tell a complete story, is maddening.

I wonder sometimes if the patterns of questions and comments can be broken down into some chaos algorithm, something to track the swarm mentality we all contribute to. Is there a bellwether that draws these things out? Some confluence of factors I can't see that make more and more people jump on the bandwagon? Is it some bizarre Heisenberg principle where the act of observing it in the first place acts as the trigger and feed for more?

My theory is that we're all victims of a Six Degrees problem. All of our lives and interests have intersecting points. There are those who know the victim, those who know the suspect. Those who hate, those who love and those who are simply filled with morbid curiosity.

In this case, I think she touched a lot of people's lives, not just by who she was, but by the nature and context of her murder. The community around her doesn't strike me as particularly tight knit except in regards to her. I'm not sure how many commenters who knew her knew each other, but I haven't gotten get the sense that any of them did.

The most interesting thing about this, for me at least, is how local it is. There has been very little coverage about this outside the SGV Tribune and a lot of the commenters have felt slighted. It's almost as if he strangulation and unceremonious hiding of a young woman's body in a drum just isn't important enough to edge out Paris Hilton's latest crotch shot.

I'm curious how much coverage this will get once it actually goes to trial. Not much I imagine.

Well, I could go on all day about this, so I'll stop here. There's only so much self-referential bullshit I can expect you people to put up with from me in a single day.

But before I sign off, I'm curious what any readers might think about this. Feel free to chime in. Opinions are free, after all.


pattinase (abbott) said...

It's getting increasingly hard to get good coverage from our starved newspapers. Maybe they will turn to blogs for info.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Being on Blogger makes it easier for people Googling to stumble across your blog, especially if it's referring to current issues in the papers. When something's reported, it's often syndicated over a number of newspapers so that brings a large amount of people on to it. But once the story is off the front page of a paper or even the front page of a section, readership drops off dramatically. Only the few that have commented might come back to check, then ... nothing.

I have a feeling that Google's algorithms have a lot to do with it, but I always like to blame chaos maths for the rest.

LivingDigitalPhotography said...

Algorithms?...Nah I'd blame it on the moon. As well as lack of information on this case. A new tidbit pops up and everyone goes nuts.