Earlier this year, we told you about reports by Headline News' Nancy Grace implying that a suspect was a "selfie-stalker" who'd used a technique straight from a serial killer's playbook. In truth, the man, subsequently identified as Benjamin Seibert, was innocent of any crime, and he's now suing Grace and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers for at least $100,000 over the incident. Details and two videos below.
On February 7, as we've reported, sent a news alert to media outlets like this one featuring the following double image....
...as well as this narrative:
On January 29, 2014 at about 9:20 PM while the victim was putting her children to bed the pictured male entered the victim's residence in the 3400 block of West Amherst Ave. by an unknown means and used the victim's cell phone to take this photograph of himself. The suspect is unknown to the family however he has been seen walking in the neighborhood in the past. If you can recognize this person please call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers.
Before long, this tale had made its way to Grace, who hyped the report in typically hysterical style, expounding on how leaving behind a cell-phone selfie was "a textbook serial-killer's calling card."
Scary stuff -- but completely bogus. On February 19, nearly two weeks after the original release, Crime Stoppers, with which 9News has long been affiliated, contacted the station with news that the man pictured in the aforementioned alert had been cleared of any wrongdoing -- and it appeared no crime had actually taken place.
What happened? According to the station, the California man in the photo -- Seibert -- was mutual Facebook friends with the husband of the woman who thought her home had been invaded. The hubby guessed that someone must have accidentally sent the pic to his wife while photo streaming.
Apparently, the husband didn't immediately recognize Seibert from the fuzzy, blurred-out shot -- nor did he or his wife realize that the background of the shot didn't actually match the house where it was supposedly snapped.
When word reached Seibert about the Denver police alert, he immediately contacted the department. However, no one got back to him for at least four days, causing him untold anxiety. Turns out he was looking for a job at the same time he appeared to be the focus of a nationwide manhunt.
Finally, the Denver cops dropped the matter, but they didn't send out a release exonerating Seibert and explaining the situation -- and no such notice had shown up on the Crime Stoppers Facebook page by the time of our original post. As a result, more than two weeks went by before 9News learned the truth.
Denver police spokeswoman Racquel Lopez claimed on camera that the department stood by its handling of the case -- and now, the DPD and Crime Stoppers may get a chance to back up this assertion, owing to the lawsuit filed yesterday in Denver County Court. It reportedly reads in part: "Based on the public's ugly response to Mr. Seibert, all defendants made publications that brought hatred and contempt upon Mr. Seibert and so the publications amount to defamation."
The monetary demand: in excess of $100,000.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.