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To Catch a Catfish: A Woman’s Impersonation of a Deceased Romantic Rival Provided Sufficient Proof of Murder

“Catfishing” is a well known phenomenon in modern society in which a person adopts the digital identity of a real person, or even a non-existent person, on social media and/or other digital platforms, as a means of deceiving someone for romantic, financial, or other fraudulent purposes. An imposter in Nebraska took this practice to a whole new level, when she murdered her romantic rival and then adopted that person’s digital identity for nearly four years in an effort to cover up the murder.

In 2012, Cari Farver was casually dating a man named David Kroupa. Mr. Kroupa had recently broken off a relationship with a woman named Shanna Golyar. Ms. Golyar made multiple attempts to resume the relationship with Mr. Kroupa, including interrupting one of his dates with Ms. Farver, a woman that Mr. Kroupa had only recently started dating. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Farver’s vehicle was vandalized. A couple of days later, Cari Farver went missing.

Although Farver’s body was never found, approximately four years later, Shanna Golyar was charged with Farver’s murder. Following her conviction, Golyar appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court to seek to have her conviction overturned, because she believed“the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions . . .” Ms. Golyar emphasized that no body or murder weapon were produced at trial.

However, prior to charging Ms. Farver, investigators were able to find digital forensic evidence proving that for a period of approximately four years after Ms. Farver went missing Ms. Golyar had utilized Ms. Farver’s Facebook account, email account, and text messages to adopt Ms. Farver’s digital identity. Using Ms. Farver’s accounts and phone, she sent a message breaking up with Mr. Kroupa, unfriended Mr. Kroupa on Facebook, sent multiple messages to Farver’s family members and friends, sent a message to Farver’s employer to quit her job, sent harassing messages to Mr. Kroupa and his other love interests, and sent harassing messages to herself. Ms. Golyar also created a myriad of false accounts, impersonating other individuals to further her scheme.

In early December of 2015, Ms. Golyar went to police in an attempt frame Amy Flora, the mother of Mr. Kroupa’s children, asserting that she had received harassing messages from Ms. Flora and that she believed Ms. Flora was also the actual source of the “harassing” messages ostensibly sent by Farver. A few days later, Ms. Golyar provided the police with additional harassing messages that she claimed came from Ms. Flora. Later that same day, Ms. Golyar shot herself in the leg. When the police arrived, Ms. Golyar alleged that Ms. Flora was the one who shot her. Using imposter email accounts, Ms. Golyar continued to send emails, purportedly from Ms. Flora. These emails included harassing comments and Ms. Flora’s supposed admissions regarding the murder of Ms. Farver, an arson at Ms. Golyar’s residence, and the shooting of Ms. Golyar.

Through their investigation of Ms. Golyar’s allegations, the police were able to confirm that all of the messages originated from Ms. Golyar. Police also discovered digital images tied to Ms. Golyar’s phone that included tattoos on Ms. Farver’s body and Ms. Farver’s vehicle. Moreover, the investigation uncovered digital evidence that placed Ms. Golyar in proximity to various criminal acts and tied her to the imposter accounts. On appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld Ms. Golyar’s murder conviction, based upon the digital forensic evidence, finding “circumstantial evidence associated with the victim’s disappearance can be sufficient to establish the death.” State v. Golyar, 301 Neb. 488 (Neb. 2018). While Ms. Golyar may have thought that she had gotten away with the perfect murder, by disposing of the body and the murder weapon, her digital footprints associated with her catfishing provided the proof necessary to tie her to the murder. Sometimes facts truly are stranger than fiction.