The Amy Boyer Case

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Amy Boyer's high school photo
he Amy Boyer Case
refers to the murder of Amy Boyer committed by Liam Youens in October 1999. This case was one of the first cyberstalking cases to attract extensive media attention. Youens was able to obtain Amy's personal information and determine her whereabouts through stalking on the Internet. This murder case has initiated many discussions regarding ethical implications between the real and the online world. It also has been acknowledged to be the case that encouraged efforts to introduce new legislation to help fight and protect victims against cyberstalking and the invasion of personal privacy online.


Amy Boyer was a young woman from Nashua, New Hampshire. She attended and graduated from Nashua High School and was in her final year in a dental hygiene institution at the time of her death. Boyer was in a relationship and had two part-time jobs in order to pay her way through college [1]. She briefly worked in a dentist office before she was murdered at the age of 20 [2].


Liam Youens, Amy Boyer's murderer.

Liam Youens is the youngest of six children and also attended Nashua High School in Nashua, New Hampshire. He graduated in 1997, and subsequently enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology. From an early age, Youens was described as antisocial and a loner who hardly spoke to his own family. Clarissa London, Youen's mother, told police that the door to his room was always locked and he survived solely on frozen pizzas and soda, which he ate alone in his room. He was teased excessively throughout high school and immersed himself in violent video games, pornographic video clips, and even photographs of Boyer. He thought of himself as very unattractive that he hardly ever allowed anyone to take a picture of him. [3]. Miserable from living in the college dorms, Youens dropped out of Rochester Institute of Technology after his first year. He collected guns and personally owned 5 rifles and a hand gun. He rarely spoke to or ate with his family. In November 1996, Youens' threw a cabinet of chinaware down a flight of stairs solely because he was angry at his mother for not letting him have plastic surgery to fix his sunken chest. Despite his poor attitude and peculiar habits, this was the only known violent occurrence before he murdered Amy Boyer.

Obsession with Amy Boyer

In 1991, Youens met Boyer through a church youth group. He instantly developed an obsession with her, but was never confident enough to tell her. When he saw Boyer interacting with another boy on the school bus, Youens ultimately made his decision to eventually murder her. Youen's obsession continued, and he began to stalk both Amy and her family. Boyer and her family never knew of Youen’s obsession [3].

Internet Activity

Youen had started a website, documenting his process and plans to murder Amy Boyer. His website ran for almost two and a half years and was publicly accessible. This documentation was shown to Boyer's parents by the Police the night of the shooting. At times, Youens had two websites up about Boyer; both were taken down from the web immediately after the murder and neither are currently available. However, a reproduction of his site still remains online. His desires, thoughts, and actions are all still documented online [4]. Youens' website is linked through the recreation of the original site that Boyer's family made to raise awareness of the crime and how the Internet facilitated.

On his website, he would write about his obsession with Amy Boyer, committing suicide, and other very detailed personal information about himself. Youens would continue to write about his process of finding Amy and even commented on how easily accessible the Internet was in his findings.

To find Boyer, Liam Youen used Docusearch, an internet based organization to conduct his online investigation using third party information searcher sites that obtain and sell individuals’ personal information. It costed him forty-five dollars to obtain documents that included Boyer's date of birth and social security number. Later, Liam contacted Docusearch’s contractor, Gambino, impersonating an insurance company representative to acquire more information on Boyer and her family. By manipulating people to acquire information and using illegal methods, Youens was able to obtain Boyer's work information from Gambino who called Boyer’s mother to obtain her work location. [4].

Boyer's Murder

On October 15, 1999, Liam Youens posted one last message onto his website advising an online friend to check local news websites, then parked outside of the dental office where Amy Boyer and waited for her to leave. As Boyer sat inside her car preparing to leave, Youens pulled up next to her car driver-to-driver and shot her eleven times. Youens then turned the gun on himself.

Ethical Implications

The Amy Boyer case illustrates how ethical models are complex in the online world. Youens was able to access and obtain Boyer’s personal information without much difficulty via the Internet. He was able to violate Boyer's privacy and gain deep access to her personal life. This is an example of how legislation and regulation cannot keep pace with growing technology. Docusearch is an example of the lag between technology and legislation as such easy access to private information is typically well regulated outside of the digital domain.

Role of Website Hosts

For over two years, Liam Youens maintained and updated his website dedicated to documenting his plan to murder Amy Boyer and his ongoing stalking of her and her family. Web hosts Tripod and GeoCities, who hosted this website, could have detected Youens's activity and informed the proper authorities. Tim Remsberg, Boyer's stepfather, became an outspoken proponent of this point of view following her murder, attacking both web hosts in the press for not policing the content that they host[5]. This raises questions not only about the responsibility of Internet service providers (ISP), but also about the privacy of private website owners.

“Different” Crimes Exist Online

Tavani describes stalking online as “a different kind of crime from stalking in the ‘offline world’” [6]. The nature of the “same” crime changes because the online environment offers many more opportunities for stalking. These can occur in the following forms: instant messaging (to get in contact with the victim), searching for personal information, posting comments about the victim (to further the degree of stalking), and more. Any stalker online “can now stalk a targeted victim without having to leave the comfort of his or her home” [6].

Need for New Ethical Model

The Amy Boyer case has introduced Amy Boyer's Law to address the issue of cyber-stalking. It was introduced as a bill by U.S. Senator Judd Gregg on October 25, 2000, and was not enacted(it was referred to a committee)[7]. Even though 20 states have laws about cyber-stalking, if the stalker is not within the boundaries of the same state, the case is not taken very far and not very much is done for it. The law also does address murder, gun control or stalking, but the display and sale of Social Security Numbers without consent. Unfortunately, "Amy Boyer's Law" has spurred a discussion over Privacy vs. Protection. [8].

Many people seem to understand "Amy Boyer's Law" as a privacy law and there is opposition against it because it contains too many loopholes that would allow people to obtain information from brokers, especially because "Amy Boyer's Law" would repeal the current privacy law. The current privacy disallows banks from sharing people's private demographic information, including their social security number, with outside third parties. From an article titled, "Why the Amy Boyer's Law is a Trojan Horse" by Ed Mierzwinski the federal Consumer Program Director of the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group)says, "The companies in the Individual References Services Group (IRSG) lobby that helped write the Gregg law (as detailed in the Washington Post on 25 October 2000) want to roll it [current privacy law] back. They are suing the FTC to overturn the rule. If they win the lawsuit and win the Amy Boyer Law, then they will succeed in their effort to roll back current privacy law." [9].

It can be argued that real world ethics cannot apply and transfer easily to the online environment due to the fact that there is a lack of moral barriers in place in the Internet that would allow for appropriate moral judgments and decisions to occur, such as in real life. Such a conflict results in “policy vacuums”, described as:

“Because of logical malleability, computing technology enables human beings to do an enormous number of new things that they never were able to do before. Since no one did them before, the question arises whether one ought to do may discover that no laws or standards of good practice or ethical rules have been created to govern them…”policy vacuums”, some of which generate ‘conceptual muddles’” [10]

A lack of morals to guide future actions limits ethical judgments online, resulting in conceptual muddles. Therefore, there is a need for a new ethical model that directly deals with dilemmas encountered in the online environment.

See Also


  1. [Bocij, P. Cyberstalking, harassment in the internet age and how to protect your family. Praeger Publishers, 2006. Print.]
  2. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "Killer Stalks Victim through Internet Firms." 30 November 1999. Retrieved on 06 October 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hirsch, J.M. "Chilling Web Site Reveals a Killer's Obsessive Plans."05 December 1999. Retrieved on 06 October 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Douglas, Robert. "The Murder of Amy Boyer." 13 April 2005. Retrieved on 06 October 2011.
  5. Wright, Chris."Was the Web really to blame for the death of Amy Boyer?" 14 August 2000. Retrieved 09 December 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tavani, Herman T. The uniqueness debate in computer ethics: What exactly is at issue, and why does it matter? Ethics and information Technology, 4.1, 01 Mar 2002: 37-54. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  7. Rogers, Harold. "H.R.5548 (106th)." 25 October 2000. Retrieved on 16 APril 2016.
  8. "Understanding Amy Boyer's Law: Social Security Numbers, Crime Control, and Privacy." 1 December 1999. Retrieved on 09 December 2011.
  9. Mierzwinski, Ed. "Why The Amy Boyer Law is a Trojan Horse." Retrieved on 09 December 2011.
  10. Bynum, Terrell W. "Milestones in the History of Information and Computer Ethics." The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics. Ed. Kenneth E. Himma and Herman T. Tavani. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. 27-48.

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