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article imagePolice: Teen killed classmate, took Snapchat 'selfie' with victim

By Megan Hamilton     Feb 10, 2015 in Crime
Jeannette - A Pennsylvania teenager is being held without bail and faces murder charges after allegedly killing a classmate and then posting a picture of himself with the victim's body on Snapchat.
Maxwell Marion Morton, 16, was charged last Friday with first-degree murder, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, via The Verge, after police were shown a photo of Morton at the murder scene where classmate Ryan Mangan, also 16, was killed. It's reported that Morton shared the photo on Snapchat, but one recipient took a screenshot, thus saving the photo and his mother contacted law officials.
Mangan's mother found her son dead Wednesday in their home on Rankin Avenue. Authorities say the boy had been shot once in the face, Trib Live reports.
Police say the photo shows Mangan as he was found at the crime scene.
District Attorney John Peck, a prosecutor with 30 years of experience, has seen just about everything, but a selfie of a suspect with a murdered victim was a first.
"I've never seen it before," he said, "but it was a key piece of evidence that led investigators to the defendant."
Typically, Snapchat messages disappear within seconds of being opened, but the teen who opened the message was able to save the photo and show it to his mother. She called the police on Thursday, according to a police affidavit, Reuters reports.
A search by police at Morton's home on Friday turned up a 9mm handgun hidden under the basement steps. A spent 9mm shell casing was found at the scene of the crime. The affidavit reports that Morton confessed to the police that he killed Mangan. Investigators have yet to reveal what they believe Morton's motive was.
Morton has been arraigned as an adult in magisterial district court in Westmoreland County on charges of criminal homicide, first-degree murder and criminal possession of a gun. He was denied bail.
It isn't known if Morton had a lawyer. A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 19, Reuters reports.
In a search of Mangan's phone, police found a picture of the teen holding a semi-automatic handgun, the affidavit reports.
In his Snapchat messages, Morton also allegedly wrote a number of texts accompanying the photo, one of which said:
"Told you I cleaned up the shells," and "Ryan was not the last one."
All around the world, investigators have used social media posts that link suspects to crimes. In some of these cases, thieves have taken selfies with phones or other stolen devices, largely unaware that these photos automatically upload to the owners' accounts. In other instances, police found photos criminals have taken of themselves during or right after committing crimes, Trib Live reports.
"This is really a question about criminal pathology rather than technology," Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and a psychology and social media instructor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California, told Trib Live. "Perpetrators in need of validating their power and sens of self-importance have used all kinds of communications to 'brag' about criminal activities — from the local hangout to social media, like Facebook."
Rutledge was speaking in general, adding that she didn't know enough about the case in Jeannette to address it more specifically.
An online donation site has been set up by a friend of Mangan's mother and donations can be made here.
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