Facebook’s utility as an advertising platform may still be a matter of debate, but it is definitely useful for saving lives in hostage situations. The Associated Press reports that a woman and her 17-month-old child were rescued after being held hostage for five days in Utah by her unstable ex-boyfriend.
The woman, whose name has not been made public, was held hostage in her own home and abused along with her baby by Troy Reed Critchfield, who will probably be going to prison -- again -- for “aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, aggravated assault, domestic violence in the presence of a child, damaging a communication device, child abuse and cruelty to animals.”
As this impressive rap sheet reveals, Critchfield had tried to isolate the woman from the outside world, including law enforcement, by taking her cell phone away. But she was still able to call for help by posting the following plea on Facebook: “Hello…is anyone out there? I am having a serious problem and me and (my son) will be dead by morning.” Friends who saw the post alerted the police, who visited the residence and took Critchfield into custody.
Score one for Facebook. By the same token, Facebook can also play a role in precipitating domestic violence -- especially, it would seem, in Western states. Earlier this month a 48-year-old Arizona woman, Brenda S. Batista, supposedly stabbed her husband with two twelve-inch kitchen knives for friending women on Facebook. The husband survived the attack with minor injuries, and Batista was arrested by sheriff’s deputies who said she greeted them at the door to her house with the following confession: “Take me to jail, I stabbed him.”
Conversely, 36-year-old Benito Apolinar of Carlsbad, New Mexico allegedly assaulted his estranged wife for failing to “like” a Facebook status update about the anniversary of his mother’s death. Before attacking her Apolinar, who was intoxicated, exclaimed: “Everyone ‘Likes’ my status -- but you, you’re my wife. You should be the first one to ‘Like’ my status.” His wife escaped with only minor injuries.
Other times Facebook just helps hostage-takers blow off some steam. Back in June Jason Valdez, 36, took to Facebook via his smart phone during a 16-hour-long armed standoff with SWAT teams at a motel in Ogden, Utah. His first Facebook status update read: “I'm currently in a stand off wit these shady azz niggaz from old, kinda ugly but ready for whatever, I love u guyz and if I don't make it out of here alive that I'm in a better place and u were all great friends....” Later Valdez posted a photo of himself and a woman he was holding hostage, with the following tag: “Got a cute ‘HOSTAGE,’ huh.” Valdez also received information from a friend via Facebook warning him about a SWAT team member hiding in nearby bushes and advising him to “stay low.” Like most armed standoffs, there was no escape for Valdez in the end: he shot himself in the chest as the SWAT team stormed the motel, and is now in prison. His hostage was freed, unharmed, so there was a happy ending to the story.