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New York teen’s murder photos went viral, prompting mom to help change law

Kim Devins still receives painful messages from strangers online reminding her of the tragic death of her daughter Bianca.

“I got a message yesterday,” Devins told Fox News Digital. “It wasn’t a photo of Bianca, but someone had recreated the death photo with Lego figures and was sending nasty messages about her.”

“It still happens,” she said, “and then all of a sudden you see your photo posted somewhere.”

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Bianca Devins is the protagonist of the true crime documentary series “Deadly Influence.” (Utica Police Department)

On July 14, 2019, Bianca Devins was murdered by a man she met on Instagram, who then posted photos of her body online. The gory images went viral and were posted on online chat sites such as 4chan and Discord, with many online posters either scorning or celebrating the death of the 17-year-old girl.

Kim Devins of Utica, New York, is coming forward in Investigation Discovery’s true crime documentary series, “Deadly Influence,” which delves beneath the surface of social media and explores the dark realities of toxic online communities.

“I want to tell the world about Bianca,” Devins said. “I’m always open to talking about my daughter, but we also have a really important message to get across, and we need some important changes in the law and with social media companies.”

Bianca Devins leans on her daughter Kim Devins

Kim Devins (left) said she closely monitors her daughter Bianca’s (right) social media presence. (Research and discovery)

“I’m her mother. I can’t put that picture on the internet,” Devins added.

Bianca was described as a “bright light” and called Devins her best friend. She had a close relationship with her sisters and found solace in drawing. But after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, Bianca struggled to connect with other teens. Like many, she turned to social media to find a sense of community.

“She had a lot of mental distress,” Devins said, “but even in her darkest times she was helping others. In her times of distress she couldn’t always follow her own advice, but she always got good advice from her friends.”

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Bianca Devins using a star filter

Growing up, Bianca Devins struggled to form relationships in real life, her mother, Kim Devins, told Fox News Digital. (Research and discovery)

“I think as she got older, she started to face more challenges with her disability,” Devins continued. “She found it harder to connect with people in what you might call real life, and on the internet, she found a community of people who were going through similar things and struggling with the same disability.”

Ms. Devins grew increasingly concerned as Bianca’s following grew, and she said she closely monitors her daughter’s online activity.

“I relaxed the rules because she was 17, but I’ve always taught my daughters to never trust anyone no matter what they say,” Devins says. “On the internet, people can disguise themselves, and I always told them that even if you’re talking to a teenage boy, it could actually be a 52-year-old man trying to seduce you.”

“But Bianca would FaceTime with her friends, so we knew they were real, and I was always popping in on FaceTime. I was pretty aware of what she was doing online and who she was interacting with.”

Brandon Clark looks sideways in court.

Bianca Devins met Brandon Clark (left) on Instagram a few months before she was murdered. (image)

Police said Bianca met Brandon Clark, 21, on Instagram about two months before her death. Authorities said they initially met online but “the relationship developed into an intimate, personal one.”

“They spent time together and knew each other’s families,” police said.

Devins said she met Clark “several times.”

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Bianca Devins with a heart sticker on her face

Bianca Devins was preparing to attend a local community college before her horrific end. (Research and discovery)

“He was always at my house,” she explained. “My first impression was he was super nice, super personable. He was just kind of like the nerdy kid next door. … We had no idea what he was up to.”

Devins still vividly remembers the last time she saw Bianca. Her daughter was looking forward to her “first adult concert,” her first in New York without her mother. She’d just graduated from high school and was enjoying her newfound freedom with friends. When Devins found out Clark was taking her to the concert, she thought nothing of it.

“She seemed really happy,” Devins said. “I remember we were both getting ready. She was heading to a concert and I was getting ready to go to my graduation party. She came up behind me and gave me a hug. She said, ‘I love you,’ and I said, ‘I love you. Take care,’ and those were the last things we ever said to each other.”

Bianca Devins leans on her mother, Kim Devins, in a car.

“She said, ‘I love you,’ and I said, ‘I love you, take care,’ and those were the last words we ever said to each other.” (Research and discovery)

Police said Bianca and Clark had gotten into an argument sometime that Saturday night. They returned to Utica early Sunday morning and went to a corner of a cul-de-sac, where they got into an argument and Clark killed Bianca with a large knife, police said. Around 7:20 a.m. Sunday, authorities began receiving calls about a man posting on a social media site that he had killed someone.

Before officers could take Clark into custody, the suspect stabbed himself in the neck, then lay down on a green tarp and took a selfie while lying next to the dead boy.

The photo quickly went viral online.

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A tribute to Bianca Devins

This photo was taken on July 15, 2019, in Utica, New York, as family, friends and community gathered to remember 17-year-old Bianca Devins of South Utica, who was murdered by a man he met on Instagram and who later posted photos of her body online, police said. (Greg Mason/Observer-Dispatch via The Associated Press)

“If you look at the body camera footage, you can see my roommate handing my dad his phone,” Devins said. “My roommate and my dad found a picture of Bianca, who had passed away. … They didn’t say anything to me at the time. We were tagged in the photo right away.”

Devins and her family were tagged multiple times each day in photos of Bianca’s body with “nasty, vulgar messages,” and Devins said she and her family struggled to remove the photos quickly enough amid the influx of tags.

“There’s really no good way to report these incidents,” Devins explained. “All social media platforms have reporting mechanisms… [but]In most cases, the photos were reported to me even though they didn’t violate the guidelines. It still happens, and I don’t have anyone to contact who can explain what’s going on.

Mourners wear masks and light candles.

Friends, family and loved ones have mass-reported photos of Bianca Devins’ body that were posted on social media, demanding that they be taken down. (image)

“I wasn’t able to get in touch with Instagram until I went to my local congressman,” Devins claimed. “I was very fortunate because I had connections. His wife was friends with my best friend’s sister, so I was able to get in touch pretty quickly and easily. Most people aren’t like that. … This is something I would love to see as federal law. I’ve proposed that these social media companies have a crisis response center. We need to reach out to these companies in real time. Pictures of our kids are being sent online and parents have no one to reach out to.”

“Some of these social media apps claim to have human moderators,” Devins said. “I don’t know how a human moderator could look at that photo and say it doesn’t violate their community guidelines.”

Devins said all of the tags are “re-traumatizing.”

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Mourners hugging each other.

“As a mother, you never have time to properly grieve,” Kim Devins told Fox News Digital. (Greg Mason/Observer-Dispatch via The Associated Press)

“As a mother, you never have time to properly grieve,” she says. “I’m constantly worried about my other children and how this will affect them. It’s psychological terrorism. It’s re-traumatizing every time. I have no choice but to look at the pictures. Some people say, ‘Don’t look, ignore it,’ but it’s my child on the internet. I have to look at it and report it so they can take it down… but it just adds to the trauma. You never get over losing your child and having that thrust upon you.”

In her grief, Devins campaigned to hold social media platforms accountable, and in late 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochl signed Bianca’s Law into law.

Close-up of Kathy Hoekl speaking at the podium

BIANCA’S LAW was signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hockle. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

“This bill creates a crime for the illegal distribution of images of individuals, especially crime scene photos,” Devins explained. “In New York state, it’s illegal to upload and distribute graphic images of individuals or crime scene photos. But I still support this because we need to expand this to federal law. Right now, it’s too narrow to be limited to New York state. The only way we can hold social media companies and big tech companies accountable is through federal law.”

Brandon Clarke profile

Brandon Clark was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison for the murder of Bianca Devins. (image)

Clark was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. For Devins, her work isn’t done yet.

“Until that law was signed, I never really felt like justice had been served. Even if her killer goes to prison, it’s not going to bring her back,” she said. “It doesn’t erase all the trauma we went through, but I feel like we’ve finally got some justice for Bianca, and her name will live on so other families don’t have to go through what we went through.”

When asked what advice he would give to today’s parents, Devins acknowledged it’s complicated.

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A woman holds up a Justice for Bianca Devins sticker.

A woman in the gallery wears a “Justice for Bianca” pin during Brandon Clarke’s trial. (image)

“I don’t blame the internet. She could have found him anywhere,” Devins said, “and Bianca did what she needed to do online to protect herself. … She didn’t see the red flags. I didn’t see the red flags. Investigators told us he hid this very well.”

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“Did I miss something? Nothing, really. I think that’s the scariest part of Bianca’s story – you never know what’s going to happen. My advice to other parents is to do as I did, monitor your kids’ behavior and get to know their friends. But in the end, even the safest precautions couldn’t prevent something like this from happening.”

“Deadly Influence” airs June 17 at 9 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.