From Facebook and Instagram to Twitter and TikTok, there’s no shortage of popular and sometimes controversial social media sites. These platforms draw in billions of people each day looking to share information, create web content, and have conversations with other like-minded individuals. In fact, there are websites that attract targeted groups of people who have particular interests. FetLife , a social networking site headquartered in Vancouver, serves people interested in BDSM, kink, and fetishism.
BDSM, which stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadochism and Masochism, has seen a steady rise in popularity in recent years. This umbrella term refers to a wide spectrum of sexual preferences and behaviors that are both stigmatized and alluring. Some psychology experts believe that some people use kinks to release reactionary urges from their systems. While exploring kinks and sexuality can be done in a healthy way, these activities can quickly cross boundaries.
Since its launch in January 2008, FetLife has been connected to a string of kidnappings, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders that have sparked fear and uncertainty across the kink community.
FetLife, a Social Networking Site
FetLife was created with good intentions. The largely promoted adult social networking site has been around for more than 15 years. It has helped countless people explore their sexuality without fear of being judged or ridiculed. FetLife also devotes space on its website to community guidelines, personal safeguards, and additional resources. Members can even submit reports if problems arise with report features on every page.
Dubbed “The Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community,” FetLife considers itself a safe place for people to express their sexual fetishes.
The social networking website was created by John Kopanas, who goes by the username John Baku online.
Additionally FetLife is free to join. Currently has a diverse community of more than 10,517,775 members from all over the world. The platform hosts thousands of events, from BDSM and play parties to classes and local munches. The website also claims it has more than 70,913,987 pictures and videos. Members can access to “explore, learn, and discover new things every day.”
With a company mission “To help people feel comfortable with who they are sexually,” FetLife would seem to be a sort of safe haven for people who may feel embarrassed or misunderstood for their sexual preferences. However, a lack of precautions and a false sense of safety have transformed a platform designed to celebrate sexuality into a dangerous online destination where several innocent encounters have ended in murder.
5 Horrific Cases Linked with FetLife Murders
Many social media sites have been linked to criminal activity and FetLife is no exception. However, the subject matter of the platform is what makes FetLife exceedingly more dangerous.
Like any relationship, couples who engage in activities like BDSM can do so in a safe. They can manner by using precautions like “safe words” and setting pre-established limits. However, without proper communication and trust, BDSM activities can lead to injury, accidents, and in extreme cases, death.
Here we’ve put together five of the biggest criminal FetLife murder cases to hit headlines since the website’s creation.
1. Murder of Noelle Paquette
At around 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day in 2013, 19-year-old Michael MacGregor had been living out his sexual fantasies with 31-year-old mother-of-three Tanya Bogdanovich. The two had met online on the fetish website, FetLife, where Bogdanovich revealed her desire to be raped repeatedly. MacGregor was interested in exploring his kink desires and wished to satisfy his “strong sex drive.”
After connecting on the website, the two exchanged phone numbers and started texting, as well as emailing.
On December 31st, 2012, Noelle attended a New Year’s Eve party with her friends and boyfriend. At around 2 a.m., Noelle and her boyfriend got into a fight, causing her to storm out. When she walked home to the south of Sarnia, where she had recently bought a house, Michael followed her. Tanya then drove her white Pontiac up next to Noelle, offering her a ride home. Once Noelle got into the car, she picked up Michael.
Noelle was driven approximately 17 miles away to a forest trail where she was repeatedly raped and stabbed by Michael and Tanya.
While Michael and Tanya were ecstatic following the murder, their excitement was short-lived. Due to the bad condition of their vehicle, it had run out of oil, and Michael was forced to pull to the side of the road.
Around 4 a.m., a passing patrol car spotted the killers and the two officers stopped to see if they could help. When Tanya got out of her vehicle and approached the officers, they immediately saw that her hands and face were covered in blood. She used the excuse that she and Michael were celebrating their kinky relationship and that he had accidentally cut himself while engaging in knife play.
Both Michael and Tanya plead guilty to first-degree murder in the savage murder of Noelle Paquette. The pair received automatic life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years. They must also be added to the sex offender registry and DNA bank, as well as face a lifetime firearms ban.
2. Murder of Yingying Zhang
Yingying Zhang grew up in the Jianyang District, Nanping City, Fujian Province in China. She was born on December 21, 1990, and was known as a talented, compassionate, and intelligent woman. In 2009, she was accepted into Zhongshan University’s Environmental Science Program where she excelled, and eventually went on to attend Peking University in 2013 where she would pursue her Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering. With a Master’s Degree, Yingying decided to study abroad.
In April 2017, Yingying put up new roots at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. This is where she would partake in a research group until the start of her Ph.D. program. She also picked up numerous hobbies, such as singing and playing guitar.
On June 9, 2017, Yingying started her morning cleaning lab equipment on campus. That day she also had an appointment to view a unit at one of the One North Apartments which would be cheaper and closer to her studies.
She never showed up at her 1:30 p.m. appointment.
It wasn’t long until everyone started to look for Yingying. The next day, she was seen on camera waiting at the bus stop after having missed the last bus transfer. The camera also caught a black sedan turning at the intersection of the bus stop, pulling up to Yingying, and rolling down the passenger window.
Sgt. Carter rewatched the video multiple times. He noticed a defect in the front passenger wheel of the kidnapper’s vehicle. With this information, they were able to track down the owner of the vehicle and suspect in Yingying’s kidnapping, 27-year-old Brendt Christensen who had just completed a Master’s Program at the same university.
At the trial, the truth came out.
During the investigation, police discovered that Brendt frequented several fetish websites, including FetLife, which are believed to have increased his thirst for violence.
On July 18, 2019, Brendt was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Brendt was spared the death penalty, prompting widespread anger in China.
3. Murder of Grace Millane
Born on December 2, 1996, Grace Millane was a British tourist who disappeared in Auckland, New Zealand in December 2018. A 26-year-old man, Jesse Kempson, would ultimately be charged with her murder on December 8, 2018.
Grace was from Wickford Essex and had recently graduated from the University of Lincoln with a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing and advertising. During her gap year, she decided to go on a backpacking tour which consisted of a two-week stay in New Zealand, following a six-week stay in South America. After arriving in Auckland on November 30, she disappeared in Auckland’s central business district just a few days after.
Grace’s body was discovered on December 9 at around 4 p.m. Off Scenic Drive in central Auckland. Jesse was taken into custody and charged with murdering Millane.
Police discovered that Grace was a member of multiple BDSM dating sites, including FetLife, and had encouraged partners to choke her during sex.
On February 21, 2020, Jesse was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. On June 29, 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed an application from Jesse for leave to appeal the verdict, thereby exhausting his legal options to overturn his conviction.
4. Murder of Kelli and Aiden Kramer
In 2018, a jury found Joshua Ward guilty of fatally shooting 31-year-old Kelli Kramer and her son, 9-year-old Aiden. Investigators revealed that Joshua had been in a relationship with Kelli from December 2016 to May 2017. Joshua was a self-proclaimed polygamist and testified that he had met Kelli on FetLife. According to officials, Joshua believed that Kelli was responsible for “destroying him.”
Joshua would later be arrested after agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives analyzed shell casings found on the crime scene and on a farm where Joshua practiced his marksmanship. A tipster called Crimestoppers to say that Joshua had a gun matching the description.
Joshua Ward was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her 9-year-old son. Ward still maintains his innocence.
5. Murder of Nicholas Cameron
One of the latest cases to hit headlines is the Melbourne woman who currently faces a prison sentence for manslaughter. 37-year-old Heide Bos faces a manslaughter charge after sharing her boyfriend’s address with a “slave” that she was in a dominatrix relationship. In 2021, the “slave” named Stuart Heron allegedly stabbed and beat the boyfriend to death. The victim was 39-year-old Nicholas Cameron who died from extensive head injuries in the car park of his Southbank apartment complex.
Heide and Nicholas were in an on-again, off-again relationship with more bad times than good.
The pair entered into a dominant-subservient relationship before Heidi revealed to Stuart that she was having difficulties with her boyfriend who made her feel insecure. Stuart visited Bos at her Latrobe Street apartment on July 1, 2021, where the duo made a plan to physically confront Nicholas. Heidi had planned for Stuart to bash Nicholas so badly that he would leave town.
On July 4, 2021, Stuart allegedly went into Nicholas’ Sturt Street address and stood outside his apartment. He stayed in and around the building for a total of seven hours where he had a weapon in his backpack. Stuart returned on July 8 and watched as Nicholas took his dog outside.
Nicholas was found on the ground with stab wounds to his face and abdomen, as well as an open head wound and skull fractures. He was declared dead at the scene at 12:45 a.m. Marnie McAllister, who was pregnant with Nicholas’ child at the time of his death, said that the murder had altered her life forever. Heidi Bos is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2023 for the gruesome part she played in the murder. Stuart Heron is due to face trial in May 2023.