July 4, 2011
Arrests using Facebook, Twitter, cellphone pictures on the rise (video)
Lawrence Pierce
Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Fred Giggen and Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants review the Peck and Gibson cellphone photos. With increasing regularity, criminals are using cellphones and social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook to brag about their crimes, and create evidence against themselves in their own cases, the prosecutors say.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few hours after Shawn Peck and Shane Gibson finished robbing, binding, gagging and beating an elderly woman inside her Big Chimney home last year, they checked into a local motel room and used their cellphones to take pictures of themselves with their stolen loot.

One of the photos shows Peck, 18, reflected in a mirror. In one hand he holds his cellphone. In the other, he holds a pistol, pointed downward and sideways toward the camera. The weapon is the same one he pointed at his 79-year-old victim, as he demanded keys to her safe.

Another photo shows Gibson, 19, flashing gang signs. Yet another shows a collection of weapons and pills the pair stole from the woman's house. The teens tagged the series of shots "Got em," -- apparently unfazed by the fact that they were creating evidence of their own crime.

"What these guys were trying to do in this case was to get young females out to the motel to party," said Fred Giggenbach, the Kanawha County assistant prosecutor who used the cellphone pictures to help convict for Gibson and Peck. "They were bragging about the crime."

Both teens pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery charges and a slew of unrelated crimes. They are scheduled for sentencing later this week.

More and more, police and prosecutors are banking on the digital age to help criminal investigations. Dozens of cases in Kanawha County, in just the past few months, have included evidence that law enforcement officials gathered from suspects' pages on social networking websites or cellphone text messages and photos.

"Obviously, they didn't think about the consequences of their actions when they committed the crime," Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said. "And they haven't learned their lessons."

In May, Brent Lamar Davis, 26, pleaded guilty to DUI causing death charges after he collided with a motorcyclist at the Montrose Drive intersection in South Charleston last year.

The motorcyclist, St. Albans auto shop owner Mike Frame, 60, was launched about 30 feet into the air, according to the accident report. He died in a hospital a week after the collision.

After Davis' admitted to causing Frame's death, Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky agreed to allow him to remain free on bond until his sentencing.

That lasted one day, until Stucky signed an order to revoke Davis' bond -- after probation officers found that Davis had written several posts on his Facebook account in which he brags about getting drunk and doing drugs.

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