ELKINS - West Virginia State Police officials are investigating a newly created Facebook page designed to expose the identities of individuals in the Elkins community who have allegedly provided vital information to law enforcement in exchange for some benefit, such as less jail time.
Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said Wednesday state police are examining whether comments made on the new "Elkins Snitches" page could be considered retaliation against a state witness, a felony offense.
"Snitches get stitches" and "Snitches are a dying breed" are the ominous taglines of the public page, which was created Sunday and depicts skeletons and skulls and crossbones in the profile picture and cover photo spaces.
As of Wednesday evening, however, the page displayed only a message saying, "Sorry, this page isn't available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed."
Information previously posted on the page indicated that the administrator was born on Jan. 1, 1989, and the person's hometown is listed as Elkins and current city as Buckhannon. It also said the administrator graduated from Elkins High School.
On Wednesday, the administrator revealed more in a post asking additional users to submit "snitches."
"hey im not shutting down however I do need more snithes (sic) to post so hit me up and for those people trying to guess who I am my first name is Anthony and im 24 that's all the info ill give on myself," the administrator wrote in a post that, like many on the site, contains numerous grammatical errors.
"Anthony" has asked his or her Facebook "friends" - there were 1,020 as of Wednesday evening - to send in pictures of local residents who have allegedly provided information to law enforcement or state investigators about other people involved in illegal activities in exchange for some benefit, usually a lighter penalty.
The administrator then posts pictures of the alleged "snitch" as well as the person's first and last name; what crime he or she allegedly got arrested for that resulted in the person "snitching;" and whether the person wore a wire to record other people's statements.
Parker said he learned of the page Tuesday.
"I was made aware of the Facebook page 'Elkins Snitches' yesterday and have requested that the West Virginia State Police conduct an investigation regarding the site so that a determination can be made whether any crimes have been committed," he said in a prepared statement in response to questions from The Inter-Mountain.
"Further, I have requested that particular attention be devoted to the comments made both by the site administrator and the users to determine whether these facts constitute retaliation in addition to whether any of the individuals posted on the site are, in fact, former state witnesses," Parker said.
"Retaliation against a state witness is a felony offense pursuant to W.Va. Code 61-5-27, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, and is something that the State takes very seriously."
In one of the administrator's first posts on Sunday, Jan. 5, "Anthony" writes, "Please share this page to your friends I myself think the public deserves to know who can't face what they've done like a man and had to snitch."
"Please if you've been snitched on or know someone who has let me know who this snitch is," the administrator urged Monday. "They need to be exposed and make sure to share this page to your friends and family so they can do the same."
Most users who posted on the "Elkins Snitches" page or replied to posts expressed support for the page and its owner's mission.
One user posted that he "highly" recommended the page.
"It's about time they get what they deserve," he posted.
"To who ever made this page lemme just say you are f--- awsome (sic)," another user posted Wednesday. "Haters gonna hate but this is the greatest thing ever someone should make one for each county."
However, the posts of the administrator indicate that some individuals felt offended by the page.
"A lot of people are messaging me about my site being inappropriate," "Anthony" wrote in one post. "Well it's like this if u don't like what u see stay off my page snitches need to be made public and they wouldn't have their faces on here if they weren't ratting there are more out there and I can't wait to have more info and pics sent."
"One more thing if this profile gets shut down," the administrator added, "I can promise everyone ... I will make another one I promise they won't make me quit exposing the snitches it's a big job but someone had to do it."
Facebook has apparently taken some measures to limit the activity of the page administrator, who was unable to reply to direct messages and can only receive them.
"I CANNOT SEND MESSAGES TO ANYBODY," the administrator lamented in all capital letters in one post. "I HAVE BEEN BLOCKED I MENTIONED THAT EARLIER POSTS IS ALL I CAN DO AND READ MESSAGES I'M SENT."
"Anthony" insists he does not intend to physically harm or "kill them (snitches)."
"I been on (sic) jail not a fan," the administrator posted. "I just want to expose the snitches for who they are not kill them but still share this page if your (sic) down with the get down and want to help the cause."
One pensive user pointed out the irony in asking others to report or tell on "a snitch."
"You know in my opinion a snitch that snitches on a snitch is a snitch," she posted. "Just putting that out there."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.