crime

For Hours, Photos of a 17-Year-Old Girl’s Brutal Murder Were on Instagram

Bianca Devins.
Bianca Devins. Photo: Bianca Devins/Instagram

On the morning of July 13, unimaginably grisly photos started to go viral in dark corners of the internet, according the New York Times. They reportedly showed the dead body of 17-year-old Bianca Devins, who police believe was murdered by a 21-year-old man named Brandon Andrew Clark. Though much of the information to emerge around the horrifying incident in the past few days has been conflicting, the murder has been met with widespread horror and outrage — directed at both the suspected killer and Instagram for allowing the photos to remain on the platform for multiple hours. Below, here’s what we know so far.

Who is Bianca Devins?

Devins was a 17-year-old girl from Utica, New York, who has been referred to as an “e-girl,” a demographic of teen whom BuzzFeed News describes as “a new kind of cool girl” who tends to spend time on the social-media platforms TikTok and Discord. (Devins had a small following on Instagram under the handle @escty, which, since her death, has amassed a following of more than 100,000.) She also, per Rolling Stone, used to post regularly on Discord, as well as on 4chan, an image board where incels and members of the alt-right lurk. (No reporting has suggested that Devins shared these groups’ views.) According to HuffPost, Devins had recently graduated from T.R. Proctor High School and was set to attend Mohawk Valley Community College, where she planned to study psychology; ultimately, she wanted to help adolescents with mental-health issues, as she struggled with them herself.

While Devins was shy at school, she had a large number of friends she’d met online, many of whom remember her as a supportive and caring person who helped them deal with unwanted attention from older, abusive men on the internet — something with which Devins regularly dealt. An 18-year-old girl from Tennessee told HuffPost that Devins “had experience with… people who manipulate and harass younger girls.”

The girl continued: “And she helped me get away from [a man who was harassing me]. That’s one of the things I’m most grateful for.”

What do we know about the events leading up to the murder?

The most detailed alleged account comes from Chels, a 20-year-old woman who met Devins on Discord three years ago. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chels said that on Saturday night, Devins and a 21-year-old man named Brandon Andrew Clark traveled to New York City to see a concert by Nicole Dollanganger. Once they arrived at the venue, they allegedly met up and smoked weed with another man in Clark’s car. Then, around 10 p.m., Clark and Devins started their drive back to Utica, Chels said.

But at some point during the night, the two allegedly got into a dispute. In DMs that Devins sent to a different friend on Discord, which Rolling Stone obtained, Devins said Clark was “so mad” that she had kissed the unidentified third man at the concert. On the evening of July 16, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara told reporters that officials believe this incident could’ve compelled Clark to murder Devins, WKTV reports.

“The belief is that she kissed somebody at the concert and that’s what upset him,” McNamara said. “I have a very hard time understanding how anybody can justify taking another young person’s life because they kissed somebody else.”

However, police spokesman Lt. Bryan Coromato told reporters that their investigation is just beginning — and they’re leaving no stone unturned.

“Trying to understand their relationship, what the mindset of each person in the relationship was,” he said. “We’re trying to see if it was preplanned or if it’s something that just happened.”

And what do we know about the murder?

According to Rolling Stone, around 6:40 a.m., photos of Devins’s partially decapitated body showed up on 4chan and the Instagram story of user @yesjuliet, which is believed to belong to Clark. The user’s bio on Instagram reportedly read, “10/06/1997 – 7/14/19. Just know that I feel no pain now.” Instagram reportedly deleted the account on the afternoon of July 14.

On Devins’s Discord server, Clark also reportedly posted the photos of Devins with the caption, “Sorry fuckers, you’re gonna have to find someone else to orbit.” (“Orbiting” is when exes or interested men closely follow the social-media presence of someone with whom they hope to have a sexual or romantic relationship.)

In an interview with HuffPost, Claire, one of Devins’ friends from online, shared her interpretation of Clark’s message on Discord: “He wanted her to himself. He wanted to be the last person to have her.”

After receiving multiple 911 calls from concerned Discord users and Clark himself, Utica police showed up to the scene sometime around 7:20 a.m., where they found Devins’s body outside an SUV believed to belong to Clark. They also found a critically injured man who police say stabbed himself in the neck upon their arrival; per Syracuse.com, the man has been identified as Clark. (BuzzFeed News reports that Clark continued to post disturbing images to his Instagram story as police held him at gunpoint.) Meanwhile, users on the various platforms where the photos were posted were sharing the images, with some users even allegedly screenshotting and reposting them in attempts to gain followers. (Instagram came under fire for taking multiple hours to remove the content and said in a statement on July 14, “Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic event.”)

On the night of July 14, Clark — who at the time was in critical condition at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital — was charged with second-degree murder, the Times reports. Then, on July 23, he was indicted on the charge, per Syracuse.com.

On July 29, WKTV reported that Clark pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Clark could serve up to 25 years to life in prison.

How exactly did Clark and Devins know each other?

That much is unclear. Original reports identified Devins as Clark’s “girlfriend,” which sparked outcry from people enraged at what appeared to be yet another example of a misogynistic man physically harming a woman who had rejected him; this sparked the hashtag #RIPBianca. According to Lt. Coromato, the two were “personally intimate” after having met on a dating app approximately two months ago. But Devins’s sister, Olivia, asserted on Instagram that Clark was more than just an “internet boyfriend” to Devin — he was a “close family friend,” she wrote, one they “trusted so much.”

Chels, however, disputed to Rolling Stone that the two had any sort of romantic involvement.

How has Devins’s family responded?

In a statement to Rolling Stone, her family said, “Bianca, age 17, was a talented artist, a loving sister, daughter, and cousin, and a wonderful young girl taken from us all too soon. Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our Princess.” Her family has also set up a scholarship fund in her name to raise money for “students pursuing a degree in psychology so they can continue Bianca’s dream to help adolescents with mental illness.”

On July 14, Devins’s sister posted a tribute on Instagram, which she prefaced with “I hate that I have to write this.”

“You were the best sister anyone could’ve ever asked for,” her caption continues. “Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for being the best sister I could ever imagine. Thank you for always protecting me and sticking up for me. I am going to do this for you. Every day I’m going to do my best and I’m going to get through this thing called life and do it all for you. Rest easy, I love you so much forever and always.”

How has Clark’s family responded?

While photos of Devins’s body were still rapidly circulating, Clark’s little brother James posted a photo of the two of them as kids, as well as a screenshot of vitriolic messages Instagram users allegedly sent him about the murder. In the caption, Clark struggled to grapple with what his brother had allegedly done.

“Nothing better than waking up at 4am to find out your brother killed someone and tried to kill himself, and when you’re trying to understand and comprehend how the person you looked up to, and taught you so much is responsible for such a horrible act, and people proceed to go out and blame you for what he did,” he wrote. “I’m deeply sorry something like this came from my family and my heart goes out for the family of the victim, but think about when his little sister and brothers find out what a disgusting thing he’s done, and get blamed for it.”

Clark’s father also extended an apology to Devins’s family, adding that “there was some dysfunction” at their home. Though he didn’t offer any elaboration, according to court documents obtained by CNYCentral, Clark held his wife hostage for ten hours in 2010, during which time he threatened to kill her by slitting her throat.

This post has been updated.

For Hours, Photos of a Teen Girl’s Murder Were on Instagram