Social media clues lead to arrest of man in 2012 Toronto killing
Man was stabbed after leaving a New Year's Eve party in Toronto's Liberty Village area
Toronto homicide detectives have charged a man with second-degree murder in a four-year-old cold case after using social media to share clues with a global audience.
Using an unusual investigative technique inspired in part by the popular podcast Serial, police arrested Shawn Poirier, 30, and charged him with second-degree murder in the 2012 New Year's Day killing of Mike Pimentel.
Pimentel, 24, was fatally stabbed after leaving a New Year's Eve party in Toronto's Liberty Village neighbourhood in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2012.
Poirier was arrested last Thursday in Calgary and is being held in custody.
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At a news conference Thursday morning, Toronto Police Staff Insp. Greg McLane said the decision by investigators to share details of the killing on social media was key to the arrest.
"It attracted their interest," said McLane. "It was different. It sparked their curiosity. People wanted to be a part of this. It was very captivating."
McLane said police believed that potential witnesses to the killing were from outside the Toronto area, prompting them to use Twitter to gather information.
"Hundreds of social media contacts came in," said McLane.
Pimentel was with two other friends at the party on the night he died, but the three were separated as they were leaving some time after 1:30 a.m. At some point, Pimentel ended up alone, got into a confrontation with an unknown man and woman, and was stabbed.
Police were called after Pimentel was seen staggering and bleeding. He was taken to hospital, where he died.
During the investigation, Det. Tam Bui began posting clues from the case on Twitter in an effort to crowdsource new information using the hashtag #mikepimentelmurder.
The unusual approach to investigating the killing was inspired by the podcast Serial, which focused on the opaque details surrounding the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Baltimore-area high school student Hae Min Lee and the man convicted of killing her, Adnan Syed.
The series has been downloaded by millions of people worldwide and spawned endless online speculation and debate. It also encouraged some people on the periphery of the case to come forward with new information.
By creating a hashtag for the Pimentel killing and sharing clues on social media, police were hoping a tip would surface and help break the case.
Bui's tweets during the investigation included photos of the crime scene and an image of a woman he had hoped to identify and interview. He also posted photos of three critical pieces of evidence:
- A hair extension.
- A high-heeled shoe.
- A set of keys with a distinctive key chain.
Police said detectives received "a ton of positive response" to the tweets, and a few people came forward with potentially helpful information, including a woman who said she owns the same pair of shoes and identified where she bought them.
Carla Pimentel, Mike's sister, praised Toronto detectives for their work on the case and said the family is still recovering.
"He was an outgoing guy," she said. "Everybody loved being around him."