If you’re a fan of the MTV Catfish series, a new Netflix documentary titled Why Did You Kill Me? (releasing on April 14) tells the ultimate catfishing story about a mother who used MySpace to try to find the person who killed her daughter, Crystal Theobald.
The documentary starts with images of a Microsoft Windows XP computer booting up and the MySpace site launching on web browser, with a banner to watch a Brooke Hogan music video. So it very quickly takes you back to the MySpace era of the internet, while you try to wrap your head around a family trying to catch a killer on a social networking platform.
What happened to Crystal Theobald?
Back in 2006, 24-year-old Theobald was killed in Riverside, California in a gang-related shooting, preceded by a car chase involving a white Ford Expedition. Someone got out of the car and shot Theobald, who was in the passengers seat of another vehicle.
At the outset, mother Belinda Lane had it in her head that her daughter's death was linked to the local 5150 gang, a group with a reputation for being particularly violent in the area. Exactly why she had that thought isn't entirely explained, but the investigation starts heading in that direction.
Lane wasn’t particularly comfortable working with police to find her daughter’s killer. She admits she didn’t necessarily come forward with all the information she had right away and wasn’t impressed with officials “threatening” her sons.
This initially hidden information included the fact that her son Robert Theobald was in one of the vehicles involved in the chase. This led Det. Rick Wheeler with the Riverside Homicide Unit to do some follow up on the family, which revealed a history of several previous arrests. Lane also had issues with using and selling drugs, including meth.
“I put a lot of drugs on the streets,” Lane admits in the documentary.
How did they use MySpace to try to find Crystal Theobald's killer?
Theobald’s cousin Jaimie McIntyre, then 14, had a very close relationship with her late cousin. Theobald’s brother Nick told McIntyre that he thinks 5150 gang members are involved in his sister’s death and they are on MySpace. That’s when McIntyre approached her aunt about going on the site to try to get information for the family.
McIntyre started a fake MySpace account for a girl named Rebecca as a way to attract members of the local 5150 gang. She messaged them regularly, trying to get to know them, and if or how they were involved in her cousin's death.
In the documentary, it comes across that McIntyre really took her role in trying to find Theobald’s killer seriously. While still a young girl, she really had a system in place, telling her aunt she had to “play it out” before jumping in with more aggressive questions.
McIntyre recognized that things got more complicated when Lane came up with the idea to make a MySpace account with her late daughter's picture, but using the name Angel. Lane said the plan was to make men “fall in love” with her. Definitely a disturbing thought but it ultimately led to significant strides in the case.
McIntyre chatted to 5150 gang member William “Jokes” Sotelo on MySpace, under Angel’s account. Like we see in any catfish case, eventually the idea of an in-person meeting comes up. That’s when McIntyre and Lane discover that Sotelo drives a white Ford Expedition, the same car that was involved in Theobald's death.
Sotelo ended up admitting to police that he was involved but said his car was the target in the shooting. Sotelo said Julio “Lil Huero” Heredia had gotten out of the vehicle, while someone was shooting at his car. Police found nothing to substantiate the claim that Sotelo's car was the target.
McIntyre kept messaging Sotelo on MySpace but eventually, it all became too much for the teen to handle.
“Making someone fall in love with someone who’s dead is not a good feeling inside,” she says in the film.
“It felt like I was stuck pretending to be her and she wasn’t here anymore, and it was hard to look at her face every day.”
Lane then took control of the account and that’s when things really turned a corner.
Theobald's mother was far more aggressive in her approach, including getting addresses of 5150 gang members and telling them rivals gang members were out to get them. She even had a plan to throw a party for Angel's MySpace connections, with the intention of shooting her suspect.
Lane’s sons eventually helped her realize that wasn’t a great idea but she went back to chatting with Sotelo on MySpace as Angel. Lane, starting to break down, asks “Why did you kill me?”
Death penalty comes into question
While it’s initially heartbreaking to hear Lane talk about her daughter’s death, the last 30 minutes of the documentary has more of a focus on the young people who are part of 5150, how they joined the gang and their fears throughout the investigation.
After Sotelo disappeared following that chat with Lane, Det. Wheeler tried to find other people who were in his car on the night of Theobald’s death.
Heredia was found in Mexico and later arrested in California, and discussions by investigators shifted to whether or not the death penalty should be used in this circumstance.
Heredia’s sister, Amalia, speaks about his personal experience, how difficult it was to live with their mom who was abusing drugs and alcohol, not having food to eat growing up. She said her brother had to take care of the family and he was her only father figure.
He started hanging out with older men who would give him drugs and his cousin shares the story about a time when Heredia was stabbed with a kitchen knife, and that’s when he “wasn’t the same anymore.”
It’s then revealed that Lane’s son Nick became part of a rival gang to 5150, leading his mother to have fears about her son being killed in gang violence, or even killing someone himself, while she also battles with the guilt of being high the day her daughter was killed.
Lane called this her “wake up call” and she asked the police to take the death penalty off the table.
Heredia was sentenced to life without parole. Sotelo was also found, after some more help from Lane's internet sleuthing, and he was sentenced to 22 years for voluntary manslaughter.