Unsurprisingly, you can order a murder online, using forums on the dark web geared toward undertaking any heinous task for money. Jurisdiction is tricky and as Brian Merchant reports at Harper’s Magazine, law enforcement is either too overwhelmed or unequipped to deal with the problem. Strangely, targets usually don’t believe the threat is genuine. Some of these sites are known scams, designed to fleece the hit orderer for whatever amount they’re willing to pay. Others are, sadly, for real.
Monteiro started scrolling through messages he had cached from Yura’s previous sites. The markets may have been scams, but the desire for violence was real. Monteiro had amassed a running list of people who had been singled out for death; people who’d had bounties placed on their heads, and a log of detailed conversations about how and why their would-be killers wanted them beaten, tortured, kidnapped, and murdered. It was like a Wikipedia entry for the outer extremes of human cruelty. Before I left, Monteiro gave me the password so I’d be able to keep tabs on it myself.
I began calling, emailing, and reaching out on social media to massage therapists and managers of Chinese restaurants and right-wing bloggers and I.T. guys and aerospace engineers and sex offenders and web developers. Some I couldn’t track down at all; others never answered their phones or returned my messages. I didn’t blame them. There is no easy way to say, “Hello, I found your name on a kill list on the dark net, and while the site is a scam the order is not; someone you likely know wants you dead badly enough to pay thousands of dollars to an impossibly shady website. Give me a ring back anytime,” though I tried every imaginable permutation. I was blocked on Twitter, hung up on, and, occasionally, kindly received.
In June 2018, news came of a second death from the kill list. Twenty-one-year-old Bryan Njoroge was found dead in Indiana, shot in the head on a baseball field. The police ruled the death a suicide. Weeks earlier, a user with the alias Toonbib had paid around $5,500 to order his murder and provided details of his upcoming travel. Njoroge was a U.S. military serviceman who, before he died, had made a female friend the beneficiary of his life-insurance policy. His father questions whether the death was a suicide, but the local police department has said that it is aware of the dark-web assassination order and stands by its conclusion.
So far, according to Monteiro, eight people have been arrested for ordering murders through Yura’s websites, on the basis of evidence Monteiro passed to law enforcement. One of them, a young Californian named Beau Brigham, had paid less than $5 toward a hit on his stepmother. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of soliciting murder and sentenced to three years in prison.