Luka Rocco Magnotta’s Internet trail is long, but it’s hard to know what’s real. Even his name isn’t the one he was born with: He was Eric Clinton Kirk Newman until he legally changed his identity on Aug. 12, 2006.
The slender 29-year-old Canadian has gone by other names, too, such as Vladimir Romanov and Mattia Del Santo, in his life on the Web, as a model and as a bisexual adult-film performer. (You can watch a video of Mr. Magnotta auditioning for Cover Guy, a Canadian reality TV show, here)
On the Internet, he billed himself as a star, as someone who was famous enough to date celebrities and even serial killers, such as Karla Homolka.
Most recently – until he was named on Wednesday as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder in Montreal – he was best known as the alleged “Vacuum Kitten Killer,” dubbed so by a Facebook group started in December, 2010, to track down the man responsible for posting a kittens-killing video on YouTube.
“We spent 18 months warning the police … and what did they do?” group member Rob Lynn, who lives in England, wrote online shortly after Montreal police revealed Mr. Magnotta was wanted in connection with the slaying of a man, whose body was severed and a part of it, a foot, mailed to Conservative Party headquarters. A hand, meanwhile, was destined for Liberal Party offices.
Family members in Ontario declined to comment Wednesday on the allegations against Mr. Magnotta. An aunt would only say, “I’m ashamed that he’s related.”
Property records indicate a relative lives in a brick, two-storey house in Peterborough, Ont. People inside the home Wednesday evening called police after reporters knocked on the door persistently.
“She’s intimidated, afraid, it’s all news to her today, too – all these things unfolding,” said Peterborough police office Dan MacLean, who arrived on the scene to ask reporters to stay off the property.
He said his police force is playing a peripheral role in the wider investigation, only checking out a couple of addresses in the area northeast of Toronto.
Mr. Magnotta grew up in Toronto, but appears to have lived in Los Angeles at some point, according to a Facebook page set up in his name. His Internet fame seems to be self-created.
“Luka Magntta [sic]is a Canadian male model who has become world famous through his photographs and television appearances,” states a posting on the page, which includes a list of his interests: travel, restaurants, culture and “surrounding myself with good people.”
A Toronto Sun reporter interviewed Mr. Magnotta in September, 2007, in Toronto. A rumour that he’d dated school-girl killer Karla Homolka had been circulating online.
“I want to set the record straight,” Mr. Magnotta said in the interview, appearing groggy and shaking as he spoke. “I not only have never dated Karla, I have never even met her.”
He insisted it was a smear campaign against him, but the animal-rights Facebook group formed to catch the “Vacuum Kitten Killer” claims this and other falsehoods were started and spread by Mr. Magnotta.
“He posts across the Internet, in iNews, blogs and forums in an effort to increase his fame,” the Facebook group wrote in a report detailing its sleuthing into Mr. Magnotta’s Web presence. “He tries to link himself to celebrities by commenting on articles featuring them, saying, ‘She is dating Luka Magnotta, just so you know.’ ”
His favourite celebrities included Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and James Dean, his idol. Mr. Magnotta has claimed to have undergone cosmetic surgery to look more like the iconic American 1950s film actor.
Of late, Mr. Magnotta seemed to be fixated on the Russian mafia. Images of the Russian mob and videos of people being killed in Russia were posted on his many Facebook accounts, according to the animal-rights group.
In a short biography accompanying his shirtless picture in the Toronto-based gay lifestyle magazine fab, Mr. Magnotta (who went by the name Jimmy) said he was born in Russia and hoped to become a police officer one day.
“I don’t want to do traffic tickets,” the write-up stated. “I am thinking vice or homicide.”
Over the years, Mr. Magnotta has claimed to live in numerous cities: Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego and Moscow. In a June, 2009, blog posted under the name Rocco Magnotta and titled, “How to completely disappear and never be found,” he apparently wrote that he was tired of “the constant harassment” and was leaving the country for good.
In an interview with Mr. Magnotta published on NowPublic in August, 2010, the man said he began in the adult-film industry when he was 20 years old, performing in webcam shows in Los Angeles. He said he had appeared in more than a dozen movies and many magazines under different stage names.
He noted that he knew his modelling and adult-film days were nearing an end, and said he was thinking of pursuing criminal law or psychology afterwards.
“You have to realize that after age 30, your career is basically over,” he reportedly said. “Time is the biggest enemy.”
With research from Rick Cash