A 16-year-old boy in Pennsylvania has been arrested on suspicion of murder after he shot another teen in the face last week, took a selfie with the dead body and shared the photo on social media, a criminal complaint alleges.
Maxwell Morton was arrested Friday in the shooting death of 16-year-old Ryan Mangan, according to Westmoreland County district attorney’s office.
The slaying happened Wednesday in the victim’s home in Jeannette, about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, according to the criminal complaint.
The district attorney’s office declined to provide the Los Angeles Times with any additional information, including whether Morton had been charged.
Police found a single shell casing at the crime scene and a handgun hidden under the stairs at Morton's home, according to the complaint, which added that Morton admitted to killing Mangan with that gun.
Morton used the social media app Snapchat to share a photo of himself with Mangan's body, which was in a chair in the background, according to the complaint.
Normally, pictures shared on Snapchat disappear from the receiver’s phone 10 seconds after they are viewed, but in this case, the recipient -- an unidentified boy -- took a screenshot of the picture before it disappeared.
Morton’s relationship with the boy who received the Snapchat is not clear. Some news outlets have reported that the boys attended school together, but there was no mention of that in the complaint.
The boy who received the Snapchat showed the photo to his mother, and she called police, according to the complaint.
This is not the first time potential evidence involving a dead body has been shared over social media.
In 2013, prosecutors allege, a Florida man posted a picture to Facebook of his wife’s body just minutes after he killed her. A trial in that case is tentatively set to begin March 15, according to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.
At the moment, there are too many unknowns in the Morton case to understand why the teen might have taken and shared the photo, said Karen North, a USC journalism professor.
“That’s so odd,” said North, who is the director of USC's Annenberg Program on Online Communities and has a PhD in psychology. “The fact that it was done on Snapchat means he wasn’t intending it to be permanent.”
However, "sharing on social media is done to craft control of communication, to a point," she said. "If he sent the photo, there has got to be a reason he wanted this particular third party to see it."