Black Woman Murdered by Stalker Who Had Been Using Youtube and Facebook To Threaten Her.


*Trigger Warning*
A young woman in Detroit, Asia McGowan, was shot and killed by someone who had been leaving her nasty comments on her Youtube account and also had been stalking her on Facebook. This was someone she knew in real life-it was one of her classmates.
This story is really upsetting me, but I am trying to keep my head straight about the issues at hand. It is stressing me out for two reasons. One, almost every woman I know that has an internet identity has received some sort of threatening, stalker-ish, troll-ish email, comment, forum posting, death threat, blog post or shit even a vlog. This story is chilling and it is important to remember the stalking and murder of women happened before the invention of social networking technology, but this story is chilling nonetheless. As Miriam just said to me over IM, maybe these cases are just more visible now because of technology.
Two, why isn’t this story on any of the national news networks? Because black women getting stalked and killed isn’t worthy of national news coverage?
For more on this story check out What About Our Daughters, she has all the youtube videos up.
Thanks to Tiffany for the link and reminding me that this type of thing happened even before the internet.

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43 Comments

  1. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    What a senseless, terrible tragedy. People are such worthless scumbags. I hope that killer gets caught and put in prison to rot for LIFE!

  2. S.Moore
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I attend Henry Ford Community College where this happened. Oh and by the way, dude killed himself after he killed her ^. It is really sad. One of my teachers used this for a speech today on why women should be careful what they put on the internet. Oh yeah, and that facebook/myspace is the devil (I guess I can concur a little considering I don’t have either of these) He kinda just went with the old she put herself out there so she deserved it. It kinda sucked.

  3. pleco
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    The threatening online stalker who ends up assaulting/murdering their victim always seems to be someone the victim knows IRL. Correct me if I’m wrong, but technology is just another medium through which these real-life trolls torment others, and not the spawning grounds of violence itself. Case in point, the abusive comments toward people (especially women) made on blogs, social networking sites, etc should not be taken to mean anything in terms of actual threats unless the comments are coming from someone you know.
    That is not to say that this virtual abuse should be disregarded, and certainly it’s a symptom of greater societal ugliness that the second people go anonymous many turn into racist, sexist Internet Tough Guys.
    Incidentally (and GIGANTIC TRIGGER WARNING ON THIS, and a NSFW for safety), I am a little stymied as to what should be done about this video, which showed up on the news site reddit.com.
    Again, TRIGGER WARNING/NSFW/etc on this, as it depicts a 12-year-old conducting self-abuse:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gngry3__Y5A
    If there was such a thing as physical damage caused by anonymous internet idjits, this is more likely to be the case. This boy appears to have some severe issues that are not being addressed (though I’m not a psychologist). People have tried messaging him using YouTube and he has not responded. What sort of authority would you go to on this case?

  4. Tara K.
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I think this also illustrates how internet threats tend to be dismissed as illegit or contained only to the internet — as if that person will never pass the cyber boundaries in order to commit real, physical harm.

  5. detroit.import
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    The story has gone national… sorta. CNN reported it like it was just another school shooting, which clearly isn’t the case.
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/04/10/mich.college.shooting/
    In uncomfortable coincidences, I just moved back the Detroit area Friday.

  6. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    oh my bad, I thought this killer was in hiding, but he killed himself. UGH. I hope he’s rotting in Hell.

  7. Bee
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    This has been reported all over the place; I don’t know what you are talking about. LA Times, Detroit Free Press, CNN, Fox News, AP, UPI, etc.

  8. Bee
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. Who is this teacher?! Any plans to report his/her activity to the administration?

  9. Brian
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Err, the point is that it is a regular occurance that when a young, attractive looking white woman is murdered/missing, it is pretty regular for news networks to give an enormously over the top amount of attention to it. If I go to cnn.com or foxnews.com now (which I just did), it takes work for me to find these stories. It clearly says something that the reaction is different (though what, and what the Missing White Woman Reaction implies, are both unclear).

  10. gordon.gecko
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The question shouldn’t be why doesn’t a black stalked/murdered girl get the same attention as a white one, but why does the white one even get this sort of attention?
    Crazy stalker stories are really all about insane people who do outrageous things. The public outrage these stories insight won’t really change this. Now if these stories were about mental illness and gun control then maybe it would make sense to demand more attention. But when is that going to happen?

  11. maggie
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about that…stalking is a very real form of interpersonal violence that women are subject to, perhaps even more so in this age of communication technologies. While I don’t think the mainstream media necessarily handles any issues involving violence against women in a very adept manner most of the time, I think we need to recognize the gendered aspect of a lot of these incidences of stalker violence.

  12. maggie
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    To expand what Brian commented on, and to address what these different reactions imply:
    First of all, there are different social meanings/values attached to black women’s and white women’s sexualities. While both are subject to the slut/respectable woman dichotomy, white women are typically the only group whose sexuality has ever been conceptualized as something in need of protection. Straight, white, (usually middle/upper class and conventionally attractive) women tend to be the only group of women that can ever truly meet the standard of the “proper victim” of sexual assault.
    Black women’s sexuality, on the other hand, has long been characterized as aggressive, overt, and provocative. When black women are the target of sexual assault/violence (as in the case of an obsessed stalker), the offense does not garner the same level of sympathy or outrage from the public.
    One reason for this is that the black woman was never one of White America’s sweet, virginal little girls, so her experience of rape/stalking/assault is not construed as a personal attack on White American Patriarchy through the defiling of one of its precious daughters.
    Both white and black women are oppressed by the social constructs just mentioned, but in the white woman’s case she will derive certain privileges from her situation that the black woman cannot (such as being believed more often, or receiving sympathy, when she is the victim of assault…ALTHOUGH, as we all know, this is often not the case for any woman, and I just generalized about a whole lot of shit in the name of beginning the discussion about different constructions of black/white female sexuality and how they are played out by the media in tragic cases such as this).

  13. natbsat
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, it was much more prominent on Friday, when it happened, and on Saturday, although the Detroit Free Press were the ones giving the best coverage, not surprisingly.
    I am actually really surprised that it took this long to show up on a feminist site – I expected this to hit once the identities were released.
    My husband works at UM-Dearborn, which is right next door, and came home early Friday, before we knew anything beyond that there was somebody shooting at FCC. We, of course, followed it closely – the Free Press had updates every 30-45 minutes, CNN usually waited longer, or until the update was bigger.
    I haven’t been able to look at anything from Asia’s YouTube site or whatever, because I tear up every time I see the picture in this article. This is so sad.

  14. natbsat
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Which is not to say it should have faded as quickly as it did. But I am surprised that it failed to show up in the feminist blogosphere until now – if we aren’t paying attention, who is?

  15. natbsat
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m really wording things poorly. Here goes try #3:
    Local press has been covering this pretty well, releasing more and more details. CNN had it up prominently on Friday, until the pirate story took over. Saturday still saw some decent coverage from major news networks, but solid details started trickling it starting Sunday, so I’ve been watching local news since then. I thought, once the victim’s identity was known, that I’d see it pop up on Feministing or the like right away, but it took a lot longer than I would have thought. It’s surprising that nobody picked it up from news feeds or whatever, as it has popped up, especially once the picture was released, here and there on big networks.
    I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m giving up now. I’m still shocked, and a little freaked out, and I can’t even look at her pic without tearing up, much less go further in-depth into her life than local new articles. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

  16. maggie
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Definitely true, and an important question to be asking ourselves. But to be fair, the women working this blog have full-time jobs in addition to managing this site. Also, the function of this blog is not exactly analogous that of a news reporting entity like CNN, NYT, or even smaller, strictly news sources.

  17. natbsat
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, as I said, I’m not wording this well, it was just weird to not see it anywhere, as usually these are the sites that notify me about things like this right away. So yeah…
    Blagh. Just ignore me if I make no sense, or seem to be mad or something. Sigh.

  18. Brian
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    If I read http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/svus.pdf correctly, the American Department of Justice differentiates “stalking” from “harassment” on the grounds that the target fears for their safety, and that multiple instances of harassment occur.
    Their numbers show that while men and women are equally likely to be the victims of harassment, women are more likely to be the victims of stalking. Men were also stalked by women and men with equal frequency, while women were stalked by men at ~2.5X the frequency they were stalked by women. So roughly twice as many stalkers are men as are women, and roughly three times as many victims are women as are men. There is a substantial gender disparity there. Oddly enough, men and women are equally likely to report stalking, while in general women are more likely to report being the victim of violent crimes than men. I do not know what to make of that.

  19. Bee
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the points both of you made. That is not what my comment was about–it was in response to the general statement made that the national media had not reported it, which is untrue. That statement did not contain any nuances, such as why the national media has not reported it with the same level of vigor as other cases or whether it is more difficult to find (which it will be, especially if you are looking on a site today for something that was reported several days ago).

  20. Ariel
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I heard this on YouTube. The man who murdered her was a regular in the creationism vs. evolution arena. It freaked me out a little since I had seen his online persona, and I knew something was troubling. A post of the local news covering was put up soon after the killings were committed. It bothered me that even on a local level, the story was more about him. I understand that suicide is terrible and troubling to society, but he didn’t go out alone. He took this woman with him. It seemed to me that the story should be portrayed as murder first, and his suicide secondary. I mean, isn’t that what is done for attractive white females in the national arena?

  21. sadie101
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    hmmm, Samhita
    So what sense can we make of this killer, Mr. Powell? In what context can we find that his actions “sadly start to make sense?”

  22. llevinso
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Sadie that comment is completely unnecessary and uncalled for. You’re just trying to derail the topic like usual.

  23. llevinso
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m confused as to why the police didn’t act once they were alerted to Mr. Powell’s threats from that other YouTuber. In the article it said something like the Detroit police couldn’t view the content of the video they were directed to because they were told they had to “sign in” or something. Did they not think they could register for a YouTube account? This is really what stopped them? In this day and age where YouTube and Facebook and MySpace and all that play such an important role in life (and crime) there should have been someone working at the Detroit station that could’ve figured this out.

  24. sadie101
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    actaully i am trying to HELP women.
    I am attempting to bring this back to the problem that so often afflicts women: those who attempt to forgive the doers of evil to women by finding sense or a “good” reason for bad actions towards women.
    Headlines that say wife cheats, so husband kills her. (if you want example of this I can give them.) Yes in this case I was referring to Samhita’s earlier case that Mixon’s actions made sense in light of police brutality. The larger issue is not Samhita or gettn’ the nasty on for me, but how to stop the idea that when men kill or rape women we should stop and try to make sense of it.
    Sexism must be treated like racism: zero tolerance to it no matter what.

  25. tammiamibutcher
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    I see your point. It’s a good one.
    But I don’t see why personal attacks are necessary or relevant in making that point.

  26. moonfall
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I find this particularly frightening because I was stalked and harassed online in high school. Someone repeatedly hacked my accounts on various message boards and posted obscene, insulting, and threatening messages (foul language, posting my real name and address, “I know where you live, etc). I received emails with messages like “Do everyone a favor and kill yourself” and threats of physical violence and extortion (claiming he would stop the hacking if I paid him off). The school wasn’t able to do anything about it. After I graduated, I received a death threat. My grandmother called the police, and they traced the email to a former classmate. He hasn’t bothered me since. This was 2004-2005, just before youtube and facebook became internet phenomenons, so we can’t blame social networking sites for crimes like this.

  27. Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    The fact of the matter is violence against women in the U.S. alone is rising at epidemic proportions. But American women still don’t get it. How many times have I seen a woman walking to her car in a dark parking lot yapping on their cell phone or texting totally oblivious to their surroundings? Yesterday, I was in the parking lot in Oceanside Ca where a woman was stabbed to death coming out of a Hallmark store just a week ago, and her blood was still visible on the pavement as a reminder of the horrific crime. I had my edge on and was consciously aware of everything around me and had my pepper spray ready to go just in case. My thinking is, if it happened to her, it could happen to me, and I am going to be ready. As I scanned the parking lot from all angles, I still noticed how women were walking to and from their cars with their cell phones glued to their ears and not even bothering to look what was going on around them. Unbelievable. How many more women need to be attacked before we wake up and realize “your not in Kansas anymore??” It’s a dangerous world out there, and you got to have your instincts tuned in really tight at all times.
    The point is Women’s Rights still have a long way to go on a global level. But on an individual level, women need to start protecting themselves no matter where they are, especially now in a sagging economy and record high unemployment numbers.
    There are many choices of personal protection devices that are affordable and legal in most states. http://www.stingergirlz.com offers a great selection of tasers, pepper sprays, mace and stun guns, which are compact and stylish. Home security is also important, especially if a woman is home alone. http://www.stingergirlz.com has an impressive inventory of products especially designed to keep you and your family safe within the walls of your living quarters.
    http://www.Stingergirlz.com‘s goal is to empower women and help them stay safe. If a woman is a victim of violence, http://www.stingergirlz.com provides resources for women who need help, and the site publishes a list of hotline numbers in each state.
    It is time for women to stand up for their rights and their personal safety — visit http://www.stingergirlz.com and get protected TODAY!

  28. Lynne C.
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    All they had to do was issue a warrent to Youtube, telling them that it was a legal matter, and they would have had immediate access to that video.

  29. Lynne C.
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    You mention how women really need to protect themselves more, especially in this economy, where people are out of jobs.
    This reminds me of a common excuse the media tends to use when men have gone out on shooting sprees, either at their jobs, or killing off their familes: because they were unemployed, or just got fired, had problems at work, etc. Like this gives license to just kill other people.
    I’m sorry, but the fact that this may be a common reason for guys to kill is what really pisses me off. It’s as if women, particularly are just pawns to shoot at because men are stressed out. It’s a bullshit excuse, and I’m tired of it.

  30. Lynne C.
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    It seems that these killers also want to go out with a bang, and the media is giving them that. I would propose that when they report these crimes, to not mention the shooter’s name at all. Only the victims. Let him go out quietly anyway, so that his act can be in vain.

  31. llevinso
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Yeah but warrants take time. Signing up for a YouTube account takes seconds. I’m just saying in this day and age they should have someone in the station that knows how to work these things. It’s unacceptable not to.

  32. Brian
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    This – uh – this reads like an advertisement, and I am not sure how appropriate that is.
    At the very least, violence against anyone is the United States is not rising at any rate at all, it is falling pretty dramatically. http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/glance/tables/viortrdtab.htm The rates for all types of violent crimes have been plummeting in the United States for more than a decade now. While it is harder to discern rates specifically against women, since men are the victims of most violent crimes, if you look at the rate of rapes (where women are the strong majority of victims), you see a similar trend (although the decrease started earlier, probably sometime in the 80s. General violent crimes, the decrease is more like that for men, dropping since the early 90s http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/glance/vsx2.htm
    On top of that, the men women should be most worried about are not lurking in poorly lit parking lots or back alleys, they are already at their homes or in their address books. (I would have to double check my facts, I do not think that is true for simple robberies, though it is for assaults of all natures)

  33. dee
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    He was also very religious and an anti-abortion fanatic. See article from Detroit News:
    http://www.detnews.com/article/20090413/METRO01/904130324

  34. terri strange
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Apart from him being a major player in the creationist/evolutionist debate he also spent a great deal of time harassing black women/blaming them for the ills of society on youtube.
    There are a lot of men on youtube who do this and it’s some of the ugliest stuff to come across. I’m just going to flag their videos any time I come across them from now on because it’s hate speech and I know it.
    In the news program I watched it was all about him and his mental illness, nothing about the bright young girl who posted videos of herself dancing and having fun with her friends, as if her victimhood were secondary to his climatic end. ugh.

  35. dondoca
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    How sad and scary! Thanks for mentioning this because I did not hear about it on the news. At my organization, we are in the process of discussing dating violence and having girls groups. I want this topic addressed. Just have to be careful what we put out there. One of my youth was threatened on myspace and that was an ordeal. Nowadays with technology,ie:Google, its easy to track where someone lives.

  36. dondoca
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    How sad and scary! Thanks for mentioning this because I did not hear about it on the news. At my organization, we are in the process of discussing dating violence and having girls groups. I want this topic addressed. Just have to be careful what we put out there. One of my youth was threatened on myspace and that was an ordeal. Nowadays with technology,ie:Google, its easy to track where someone lives.

  37. annaleighclark
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for taking notice of this sad story. I teach writing at Henry Ford Community College, where this woman was a student and where she was murdered.
    The other piece of the story that is being unmentioned is the fact that this happened on campus–her murderer targeted her in the fine arts building. For the public fascination/horror with school shootings and their seeming randomness, nobody seems to be talking about how this woman was specifically sought and killed at school.
    We celebrate much of the campus culture of feminism: VDay, Take Back the Night, sexual assault and LGBT services, etc.
    But where do community college fit into this? Even for a community college, Henry Ford is severely under-resourced. It is also a vital community of people–high diversity of ages, languages, ethnicities, races, genders, religions, jobs, and so on.
    To not be attentive to the needs of these students, particularly in regard to domestic violence (as Asia McGowan’s death reveals) is a crime–both of campus leaders and of the broader feminist community.

  38. annaleighclark
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for taking notice of this sad story. I teach writing at Henry Ford Community College, where this woman was a student and where she was murdered.
    The other piece of the story that is being unmentioned is the fact that this happened on campus–her murderer targeted her in the fine arts building. For the public fascination/horror with school shootings and their seeming randomness, nobody seems to be talking about how this woman was specifically sought and killed at school.
    We celebrate much of the campus culture of feminism: VDay, Take Back the Night, sexual assault and LGBT services, etc.
    But where do community college fit into this? Even for a community college, Henry Ford is severely under-resourced. It is also a vital community of people–high diversity of ages, languages, ethnicities, races, genders, religions, jobs, and so on.
    To not be attentive to the needs of these students, particularly in regard to domestic violence (as Asia McGowan’s death reveals) is a crime–both of campus leaders and of the broader feminist community.

  39. Kelly
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    To be clear it doesn’t sound like anyone said that unemployment, etc. should be or is an “excuse” for men (and it really should read ‘anyone’, not just men) to commit crimes against others. Crime is likely to rise in times of high unemployment and economic instability. Knowing that it would be wise of us to all take more care with what we can control in a situation such as having pepper spray or taking advantage of security when it’s available by asking to be escorted to our car, the bus, etc. In my opinion taking control of what we can in regards to our personal safety might reduce the risk of being victimized, or could even save us during an attempt of someone else to victimize us.

  40. sadie101
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Lynne C wrote:
    This reminds me of a common excuse the media tends to use when men have gone out on shooting sprees, either at their jobs, or killing off their familes: because they were unemployed, or just got fired, had problems at work, etc. Like this gives license to just kill other people.
    I’m sorry, but the fact that this may be a common reason for guys to kill is what really pisses me off. It’s as if women, particularly are just pawns to shoot at because men are stressed out. It’s a bullshit excuse, and I’m tired of it.
    Sadie101 replies LynnC: Bravo! you nailed it. that is exactly the issue.
    To Tammiamibutcher: when women at a feminist site give (to quote you) “Bullshit excuse” for a males who rape and kill, then I must call them out on it. This type of “bullshit excuse” when given by supposed feminists is what sets women back! I have nothing against the person, but if the person sends out a harmful message of tolerance to rape and killing my concern is for women who will be hurt by such “bullshit excuses.” I have to weigh this agaisnt Samhita’s feelings. Women not gettng victimized is my priority. And broadcasting the b/c a male can’t get a job his murder and rape spree of others “sadly makes sense” is damaging to women everywhere. no more bullshit excuses!

  41. Mollie
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    yikes, vid has been removed… I wonder what happened. Hope the kid is ok.

  42. ErinKaitlyn
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    This is so sad, I live just across the boarder from Det. and my brother went to Henry Ford Community College. I just don’t understand why he had to take her life… he killed himself and had to take her with him. Very sad…

  43. Nikki Ormstein
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    This would be all over national news if she was white and blonde….

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