California police are investigating an alleged murder, confessed anonymously on the internet and brought to the authorities' attention by citizen sleuths who believe they uncovered the poster's identity.
The San Diego Police Department is picking up where users of the popular website reddit.com left off, working to confirm if indeed a murder actually took place and if so, who is responsible, said police spokesman Lt. Kevin Mayer.
"This may be a hoax and it may be real," said Mayer. "We received a tip and our Cold Case Unit is investigating it like any other tip. It may be a hoax, but it's always a good idea to report this kind of information. Sometimes it's the one thing that breaks open a case."
The confession came in an unlikely place, a caption on a photograph of a bear. Reddit users typically admit to innocuous mistakes or misdeeds, adding text to the bear picture to create a meme called Confession Bear.
But this bear had a startling confession.
"My sister had an abusive meth addict boyfriend. I killed him with his own drugs while he was unconscious and they ruled it as an overdose," a user identified only as Naratto wrote.
Within minutes, the post went viral, with thousands of reddit users wondering if it was true. Hundreds of others began searching for information about Naratto, looking for clues to his identity – his age, location, occupation – mentioned in other comments he had left previously.
"If I had a dollar for every time someone took me… seriously on the internet, I would be able to retire from today alone," Naratto, wrote in response to the comments and questions. "If you want to catch a murderer, get out of your house, put on some f***ing tights and go fight crime."
Users believe the clues point to a 24-year-old San Diego man, and have posted his name and photograph online.
Police said there are currently no suspects because they do not even know if a crime has taken place and therefore won't name anyone as the subject of an investigation.