Sharon Lopatka

Photo of the Day

Illustration by J. Longo

Illustration by J. Longo

To Her Neighbours She Seemed Quiet and Unassuming

Online, She Asked to be Tortured and Killed

In 1996, the olden days of online hookups, Sharon Lopatka found the man of her dreams on the Internet.

Granted, her dreams were unconventional.

Sharon Lopatka set out to look for someone to kill her. So she posted an Internet message to the discussion group lia:

“Want to talk about torturing to death?”

Her message continued:

“Hi my name is Gina. I was wondering if anyone out there would want to talk about the subject mentioned above with me. I kind of have a fascination with torturing till death … of course, I can’t speak about it with my friends or family. Would love to have an e-mail exchange with someone – If you’re interested … e-mail me at: [email protected]

“I hope you all don’t think I’m strange or anything … I just want to talk about it.”

This disclaimer seems to have been a lie, just like the name she gave. She is certainly dead. Her body was found in a shallow grave outside the caravan where one of her e-mail correspondents, Robert Glass, lived. He was charged with her murder. His lawyer claims he killed her by accident, during an episode of sex with strangulation.

She had taken a train from her home in suburban Maryland to Glass’s caravan in rural North Carolina three days before. She told her husband Victor that she was visiting friends; she also left him a note saying: “If my body is never retrieved, don’t worry. Know that I am at peace.”

So far, it sounds like an everyday tale of American weirdness.

Much of her participation on the Internet was as a rather desperate seller of home improvement tips: a kind of low-rent Jocasta Innes. One of the two small Web sites she ran started off like this:

“Home Decorating secrets seen in the posh homes from the New England states to the Hollywood homes can now be yours. Never published before! Quick easy ways to decorate your home. Thousands of decorators will be furious when they hear that we are giving away their professional trade secrets (unknown to all outside the industry). For the first time in print these secrets and tricks of the trade can now be yours.

“How to glamorise your walls without messy wallpaper or hiring expensive decorators.

“Easy sew and no sew home decor projects that anyone can do! Transform any room in your house into a decorator’s showcase!”

This kind of greedy, resentful consumerism is familiar from thousands of small ads in the back of American magazines.

But out on the wilder reaches of the Internet, Lopatka took it further.

Read more »