The rise of the internet has been a wondrous thing, opening doorways and connecting people from around the world. With the onset of social media, this has only been accelerated. But there’s a dark side to the internet.
It’s always been there, the hidden under belly of the deep web, where anything can be bought, sold or traded. In recent years however, this darkness has begun to seep out onto the surface. With the internet providing a mask of anonymity, the spewing of hate and evil has become all the more easier.
The imageboard website 4chan has gained notoriety in the past for numerous scandals, from leaked celebrity sex tapes, to internet attacks and members being arrested for cyber bullying and pedophilia. Its anonymous nature allows members to act out their most depraved fantasies with few consequences.
On November 4th, 2014, in the form of David Michael Kalac – aka the 4chan strangler – a new type of murderer was born, online.
“Turns out it’s way harder to strangle someone to death than it looks on the movies”
The words of the first chilling post appeared just before 3pm, accompanied by a photo of his naked girlfriend. Images of nude women are not an unusual sight on 4chan’s /b/ ‘random’ board. This was slightly different. The ligature mark around the woman’s neck, the pallid tone to her skin and the way in which her body was posed all pointed to the fact that the young woman in question was in fact dead.
Her name was Amber Coplin – previously Amber Lynn Schraw – and she had recently been murdered by her boyfriend at the time, David Kalac. He later claimed that together they had drunk more than half a gallon of vodka in their Port Orchard (Washington) apartment, then she pissed him off.
He reacted by strangling her, first with his hands, then with a shoelace. A blunt force trauma to the head finally killed her. After he killed her, he sexually violated her corpse, bit her and marked the bite marks with a sharpie, before posing her body and taking photos.
He uploaded these to the /b/ board on 4chan several hours later, at around 3pm. A second post was accompanied by the words, ‘She fought so Damn hard’. Members of the site didn’t take the posts seriously at first, and many assumed this was simply another tired meme.
The 3rd post, complete with yet another image of the corpse, read ‘check the news for Port Orchard, Washington in a few hours. Her son will be home from school soon. He’ll call her, then call the cops. I just wanted to share the pics before they find me. I bought a bb gun that looks realistic enough. When they come, I’ll pull it and it will be suicide by cop. I understand the doubts. Just check the f*****g news. I have to lose my phone now.’
Slowly, people began to take the anonymous poster more seriously.
On the Run & an Online Storm
The 3 posts were uploaded in the space of 10 minutes. Shortly after posting the images, Kalac stole his victim’s 2001 Ford Focus and fled the scene. Just a half hour later, as Kalac predicted, Amber’s 13-year-old son returned home and discovered the body. He called his father – and Amber’s ex-husband – Paul Coplin, who called 911.
The word was out, and the online community soon spread the images. The post quickly emerged on more and more websites, with a huge number of people taking an interest in this real time murder. Everyday people became online sleuths, on a quest to ID both the victim and the killer.
Despite the post being removed, the victim was soon IDed by 4chan members, who cross referenced her Facebook account. Her tattoos were a giveaway. But the ID of the killer was still unknown. On forums and imageboards across the net, speculation grew. Some members appeared to have picked names at random, and innocent people were being accused. Others believed the ex-husband was to blame.
Eventually, by following the Facebook and Twitter feeds of Coplin’s family members, the online community soon worked out that the killer was indeed David Kalac – long before the cops released any official information.
Kalac meanwhile, was on the run. Before they knew who the killer was, the cops were on the lookout for Coplin’s stolen car. And, they found it. Kalac was pulled over, but sped off before being apprehended. A high-speed chase followed, but the cops lost Kalac when he swerved into oncoming traffic. He crossed the State line into Oregon.
It’s believed he returned to 4chan and continued to post, asking members for help. It’s yet unknown whether this really was Kalac, or another anonymous member pretending to be him. Either way, the response was disturbing. While some members allegedly did attempt to aid police, others tried to help Kalac out, suggesting he head for Canada and disappear. Others deliberately tried to confuse the situation by pretending to be Kalac to throw cops off the scent.
It wasn’t until the following day that Kalac was eventually apprehended. After crossing the Stateline, he settled in Portland, Oregon. Here, he spent 4 hours in ‘The Know Bar’, where he drank 3 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a Vodka Redbull. According to the bar owner, Kalac did not seem like a man on the run. He was chatting with customers and socializing as if this was any other day. Before he left, he spilt a beer, apologized and left a large tip.
Shortly after this he made his way to Wilsonville, Oregon, where he approached a passing cop car. He handed himself in, informing the cop that he was wanted out of Washington, on a count of murder. Among his possessions was a note admitting to the murder.
‘I killed Amber Coplin. I strangled her with my hands, then a shoelace. I had no reason other than I was drunk and she pissed me off. Running from the cops was so fun. DK’
In the apartment, Kalac had scrawled messages such as ‘She killed me first’ on the walls. He also wrote the word ‘dead’ on Coplin’s driver’s license. Cops confirmed that the handwriting and ink on the note was a match, sealing Kalac’s guilt.
His bail was set at $2 million, and he was initially charged with 2nd degree murder. This was later elevated to first degree murder, a charge he was convicted of in 2017. Due to the nature of the crime, and the emotional damage dealt to the victim’s family and online community, his sentence was extended past the normal maximum of 40 years.
Besides first-degree murder, the jury found Kalac guilty of to two aggravators; firstly, that there was a foreseeable impact beyond the victim, and secondly that Kalac displayed a sickening lack of remorse. He was finally sentenced to 82 years. It’s believed he will appeal.
Unmasking a Monster
So, who is David Kalac? Unsurprisingly, the 4chan strangler, has a long history of violence. His rap sheet listed a string of charges including domestic abuse, alcoholism and attempted stabbing. In fact, he was already on a restraining order from an ex-girlfriend after attempting to murder her just months before his brutal attack on Coplin.
He spent several years dependent on alcohol, leading to blackouts, bouts of violence and paranoia. In court the defense argued that due to his alcoholism, Kalac wasn’t even aware he was killing Coplin at the time. He claimed that the last thing he remembered before his arrest, was having his hands on her neck.
It is believed that he regularly drank half a gallon of vodka and up to 18 cans of beer a day. The reasons why he turned to drink are currently unknown, but this habit has certainly been a catalyst for violence. But it turns out Kalac is more than capable of violence without the aid of alcohol.
Attack in Prison
Even when incarcerated and sober, Kalac proved himself to be a threat. On December 9th 2014, just a month after his arrest, Kalac brutally attacked fellow inmate Wayne Carlson. It’s alleged that two had previously known each other, and had lived together. They had never gotten along, and when they met in jail, the reception was even frostier.
Kalac used a piece of cardboard to jam the locking mechanism in his cell. He then entered Carlson’s cell and locked the door behind him. After dragging Carlson from his bunk, he slammed his head into a metal sink and stomped on him. After muttering, ‘I’m going to kill you’, he put Carlson in a headlock and raised him off the ground.
Fortunately, Carlson had managed to hit the emergency alarm button, and just before he lost consciousness help arrived. The case was dropped after Carlson could not be located, but he later gave evidence against Kalac at the trail for Coplin’s murder.