Morton sent the image to a friend, who saved it on his phone before it was deleted, according to Fox News. The friend showed the photo to his mother, who turned the image over to police, according to Fox News.
“[Police] received a copy of the photo which depicted the victim sitting in the chair with a gunshot wound to the face,” a police affidavit states, according to the Tribune-Review. “It also depicts a black male taking the ‘selfie,’ with his face facing the camera and the victim behind the actor. The photo had the name ‘Maxwell’ across the top.”
Police also say the friend received more text messages from Morton, saying: “Told you I cleaned up the shells” and “Ryan was not the last one,” according to CBS Pittsburgh.
Mangan’s body was discovered by his mother, who contacted police, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Police found a photo of Mangan holding a semiautomatic handgun on his phone, the Post-Gazette reported.
Morton, a high school junior and a running back on the school’s football team, confessed to killing Mangan after police found a 9-millimeter handgun hidden in his home, according to the Tribune-Review. He has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, homicide and illegal possession of a firearm, the Tribune-Review said.
District Attorney John Peck told the Tribune-Review that during his 30-year career he’s never known of a killer who took a self-portrait with the victim.
“I’ve never seen it before,” he told the paper, “but it was a key piece of evidence that led investigators to the defendant.”
Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and a psychology and social media instructor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., said there is a particular reason some criminals long to showcase their crimes.
“This is really a question about criminal pathology rather than technology,” she told the Tribune-Review. “Perpetrators in need of validating their power and sense of self-importance have used all kinds of communications to ‘brag’ about criminal activities — from the local hangout to social media like Facebook.”
Roy Hall, a coach on Morton’s high school football team, told the Tribune-Review that news of the incident had come as a complete surprise.
“I’m shocked about the whole thing,” he said. “It’s hard to believe.”