Death of Sharon Lopatka
Sharon Rina Lopatka (September 20, 1961 – October 16, 1996) was an Internet entrepreneur in Hampstead, Maryland, United States, who was killed in a case of apparent consensual homicide. Lopatka was tortured and strangled to death on October 16, 1996, by Robert Frederick Glass, a computer analyst from North Carolina. The apparent purpose was mutual sexual gratification. The case became the earliest widely publicized example of a consensual homicide mediated through the use of the Internet.
On October 20, 1996, Lopatka's husband contacted police to report her missing. He gave police copies of emails between his wife and someone with the username "slowhand." Police investigation eventually traced the emails to Robert Fredrick Glass, serving a search warrant at his mobile home while he was at work on October 25. Lopatka's body was discovered buried only about 20 meters (70ft) from Glass's residence in North Carolina, some 1100 kilometers (450 miles) south of Baltimore.
Glass initially claimed that Lopatka's death was accidental, the result of a consensual sex game gone tragically wrong. However, police investigation discovered internet chats between Glass and Lopatka discussing their shared fascination with sexual torture and murder. Moreover, several weeks before meeting Glass, Lopatka met another man with whom she'd shared her sex fantasies over the internet, but this other man "backed out."
On January 27, 2000, Glass pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, as well as six counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The latter charges resulted from child pornography found on his computer. He was sentenced to 36 to 53 months in prison for manslaughter and 21 to 26 months for possession of child pornography. On February 20, 2002, two weeks before his scheduled release, Glass suffered a heart attack and died.
The case inspired a 2008 film, Downloading Nancy, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and had a wider release in 2009. Interviews with screenwriter Lee Ross indicate he was aware of the Lopatka case and found it 'dark, horrible... and intriguing.'
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