Photo: Melanie Nunez
With reporting by Elizabeth LukeHer badly burned body was found in James Baird State Park, in upstate New York, seven days after she disappeared. Firefighters had gone to control a brush fire near the Taconic Parkway, and saw her lying in the grass, wearing Levi’s 524 jeans, a cami shirt and Victoria’s Secret underwear. She was unidentifiable.
There was a tattoo on her lower back—three purple and red flowers surrounded by green leaves. Four days later, with only a vague description of a man in a car driving away from the scene at 5 a.m. that day, investigators turned to social media to solve the crime.
They thought she was alive because of Facebook
The state police set up a Facebook page with a photo of the tattoo, calling for anyone who recognised it to help. They offered a $2,500 reward. The Poughkeepsie barracks used its Twitter account to ask for assistance from the public: “Unidentified victim at Homicide, possible suspect: http://goo.gl/m317z Facebook page at http://goo.gl/917zs Please help …”
But no one came forward. The pretty, 22-year-old Hispanic woman would lie unclaimed at the Dutchess County coroner’s office for four more days.
During the 15 days prior, her killer posted comments on her Facebook page to make it look like she was still alive, just too busy with college classes and work to pick up the phone.
Only when he shot himself after being stopped in traffic by police did her family find out she had actually been dead for more than two weeks.
Photo: BI / Facebook
Social media’s virtual graveyardBoth killer and victim left behind a trail of tweets, Facebook status updates, and a LinkedIn resume. Because they took their passwords with them when they died, the accounts are now part of an ever-growing virtual graveyard.
That graveyard includes a YouTube video that the woman recorded of her killer.
On Facebook alone, accounts that belong to dead people currently number 30 million by some estimates, and may reach as high as 50 million by 2015, according to others.
Those accounts live on in limbo, with loved ones locked out, perhaps forever.
This is the story of Jasmine Maxine Nunez and the man who killed her, and their life and death in social media.
- WARNING: Parts of this story are graphic and some readers may find the material upsetting.
Facebook was her life, her sister Melanie says. She had about 1,200 friends on the network, and about 20 albums of photos, each one with 10 to 15 pictures.
She was also pretty, and guys would try to get her attention and flirt with her on her Facebook wall.
She also had a Twitter account -- Princess Jasmine @Caramel_Blend -- with 389 followers, which she updated multiple times a day, in a joking, chatty way. A typical post went, 'straightening my curly arse hair. Lmao happy Sunday tho!' (She wrote that on the last day she was known to be alive.)
By the time she was 21, Jasmine had landed in New York (her father lives in The Bronx) and was attending the Mandl School, a graduate and associates degree college for medical assistants. She had a part-time job as a dental receptionist, but ultimately wanted to be a surgical technician.
One day, Jasmine was at the airport--it's not clear whether it was LaGuardia or JFK--trying to catch a flight out of New York, but she missed the plane. Andres, 26, was working security even though he had studied at Cornell, according to his LinkedIn resume.
'It was really romantic,' her sister, Melanie says. 'It was like out of a movie. They made small talk--she had missed her flight so she wasn't in a rush.'
'He was always surprising her with flowers,' Melanie Nunez says. Jasmine had just gotten out of a relationship with an assertive, younger boyfriend, and she liked the fact that Ceballos was more laid-back. 'She wanted to wear the pants, and with him she could do that,' Melanie says.
He was 26, four years older than her, 'so she felt like he was mature and ready to settle down, have that ideal family. And the age difference, she felt she should give him a chance. I think she wanted to fall in love with him,' her sister says. 'When they were happy, they were good.'
They moved in together in December 2010, into an apartment in the Bronx.
Like Jasmine, Andres was also an avid Twitter user. He went by the handle Dre Toma @YoTeComoEso (Spanish for 'I'd eat that'). He had 156 followers, half that of Jasmine.
His last tweet, sent on the last day Jasmine was known to be alive, is tagged #StripperFail and features a photo of a woman with scarred skin doing a lap dance. Earlier that day, he tweeted, 'I once snorted Coke off a stripper's arse, I kid or am I?'
Another tweet, a few days earlier, featured a picture of a woman at a party drinking from a champagne bottle being poured over a man's penis.
That was his typical output on the microblog site.
Andres tried his luck doing standup at an open mic at the Times Square Arts centre on Feb. 11 2011. It featured an extended riff about masturbation--delivered to a largely silent audience.
Jasmine was with him this night, and she recorded this video:
After the comedy club, they went to a nightclub where Andres became upset about a guy who danced with Jasmine. In turn, she was upset because he invited his ex-girlfriend among the friends that came with them, and it seemed like they were whispering about her, Melanie says.
He was drunk. They got into an argument and he made a big scene outside the club. She was embarrassed and decided to sleep over at a friend's house that night.
Melanie, who was in Springfield and spoke to her sister every day, said 'I'll come get you,' and take her back to Massachusetts. But the next day, Melanie says, 'so many things went wrong. There was a snowstorm. I got a flat tire.' Jasmine was also unemployed at the time and couldn't afford bus fare to Springfield, so she ended up going back to the apartment she shared with Andres in the Bronx that evening. The couple reconciled over breakfast the next day.
'My sister was probably the prettiest girl he had ever been with,' Melanie says. 'When she started living with him he was constantly breaking into her emails, into her phone, listening in on her phone calls. It came to a point where I rarely saw my sister come visit us in Springfield without him. He would include himself in all our plans. He was jealous.'
'They had a great time,' Melanie remembers, but 'two days later she's like, 'I'm upset.' It was always the same things. She didn't have any privacy with him. He didn't trust her. She felt like she never gave him a reason to mistrust her and that made her even angrier.'
Melanie came down to New York to visit her sister, and to check things out. But while she was there, 'He was perfect. He made me dinner. We talked. They didn't argue while I was there. From then on everything seemed great.'
By June 2011, things had changed. In a June 5 phone call, Jasmine asked Melanie to sign on to Facebook with her so they could chat without Andres overhearing.
Jasmine wrote she had hacked into Andres' email account and found 'a lot of weird things about him.' She didn't go into detail, but it was enough to decide the issue--she was going to leave him. She started a new job as a dental hygienist the next day, and after she had saved up enough money she would be out. She had also spoken to an ex-boyfriend two nights before, and 'a lot of the old feelings came back,' Melanie said.
'I said I would call her, but I never called her. That was her last post.'
It was strange because Jasmine and Melanie talked every day. 'On Tuesday I went on Facebook and said, joking, 'where have you been? I haven't heard from you in years, are you alive?' And I got a response.'
'It says, 'I told you I had work and school.' It was real simple and really short. She used a nickname and everything. I said, call me. She said 'inbox me,' like she didn't want to talk on the wall. 'I'll be at home at 11 or 12.''
'I called her all that week and didn't get anything.'
Melanie now believes that it was Andres using her sister's Facebook and Twitter accounts to communicate ...
On Sunday, June 12, 'I called and he picked up the phone,' Melanie says. 'He answered the phone really calm. I said, where's Jasmine? He said, 'Oh she went out for some drinks with her classmates,
she'll probably be a couple of hours.' He said she's just been really busy with school and work.'
'She never called me that night. On Monday I called again -- no answer. I wasn't worried because I had spoken to him.'
By that time, however, Andres had already beaten Jasmine to death and dumped her body in the park upstate. This is where she was found.
'They used the word 'worried,'' Melanie said. 'That's when we got concerned because for a college to call an emergency number, that's serious. It's not like high school. They said we haven't heard from her, she hasn't been to school, we want to make sure everything's OK. Her phone's disconnected.'
On Saturday, Melanie, her father, and a couple of police officers showed up at the apartment in the Bronx. They broke down the door and turned the place upside down. The officers said, 'There's no suitcases here. Maybe they just left and didn't tell anyone.'
So on Sunday, June 19, Melanie and her father went back to the apartment. 'I went in there with a mission,' Melanie said. 'I went in her closet--all her stuff was still there. In his closet, his stuff was pretty much gone. All his casual wear, jeans, T-shirts. The dog wasn't there. All of that stuff was missing.'
'In the second bedroom was a duffel bag packed with his stuff. In the bathroom her flatiron is there, her laptop is there. Things she wouldn't leave the house without. Her stuff is here and his stuff isn't. Her Facebook page hasn't been active in the past few days.'
But the worst thing was Jasmine hadn't called to wish her dad a happy Father's Day. 'So something is wrong.'
Melanie and her father went back to the police and asked them to check the car's whereabouts via OnStar. The car was on its way back from Virginia Beach; it was in front of a 7/11 near a gas station.
For a few moments, there was elation. Andres' mum yelled, 'I told you guys they were OK! They're on vacation in Virginia Beach!'
'But my dad said, 'We don't know who's in that car.'' The police sent a state trooper to pull the car over.
WARNING: The next slide may be upsetting for some readers.
The friend suggested she search Google for 'badly burned body found in james baird park.' The state police had created a Facebook page for the case, and on it was a picture of a tattoo.
'And the tattoo looked like my sister's tattoo, like a flower arrangement on her lower back. It was custom-made so it couldn't have been someone else. I saw the tattoo and I just screamed. I started crying.'
The New York state police investigating the body in James Baird Park weren't even close to identifying Andres.
This is the sketch they were working off from the witness who saw a car drive away from the park--it looks nothing like him.
After leaving the Bronx apartment, dumping the body in park upstate and driving to Virginia Beach, Andres had also somehow bought a gun in Vermont.
After the cops pulled him over, he left the car and ran on foot, went into a field, and shot himself.
He died at the scene.
Only that the last time she heard from her in person was June 5--more than two weeks before her body was identified.
Melanie doesn't have access to Jasmine's Facebook page. 'I don't have a password. It's just there. Her page is private. ... Ever since she passed away, dad doesn't go on Facebook.'
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