Washington Murder Highlights Craigslist Dangers

Sheriff Tom Dart reminds users to be wary on classified site

All they wanted to do was sell a diamond ring on Craigslist, but for one Washington state family, that simple task turned into a frightening evening that ended in murder.

Authorities say Amanda Knight responded to the ad, saying she was looking for a Mothers Day gift, but when she showed up at James Sanders’ Edgewood, Wash., home, three other armed men were with her. They rushed the door as soon as Sanders opened it.   By the time it was over, the father of two was dead.

Three men, Clabon Terrel Bernaird, 23; Kiyoshi A. Higashi, 22; and Joshua N. Reese, 20, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, robbery and assault charges, according to prosecutor Mark Lindquist.  They face prison terms of approximately 70 years if convicted.

Knight pleaded not guilty to the same charges just last week.

The Washington incident, while shockingly violent, is not uncommon according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has had an ongoing battle with the Internet classified service over its adult services ads.

"What better way to identify a victim," said Dart.  "If you were a criminal, how better to facilitate a crime." 

Just this week, a Munster, Ind., substitute teacher with a history of child abuse allegations used a Craigslist ad to get a tutoring job in Evanston where he allegedly touched a young girl.

Brett Zagorac is now behind bars in Indiana, charged with violating a bond that prohibited contact with children.

Last year, Chicago police busted a robbery ring that lured its victims with ads for cheap plasma TVs on Craigslist. Chicago Police detective Joseph McGuire called it "robbery by appointment."

Craigslist says it takes the safety of the 50 million of people who use its 700 local sites seriously.

The site posts recommended safe practices on its front page, including meeting in public places and not inviting buyers to your home. Those practices were not followed in the tragic Washington case.

Craigslist says that despite millions of human interactions it facilitates each day, violent crimes linked to its site are extremely rare.

Dart reminds that users should be skeptical when dealing with people on Craigslist.

"You have to keep people away from your personal information, where you live, all of that," he said.

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