TORONTO — The world knows Luka Rocco Magnotta all too well.
His exploits, whether real or imagined, whether alleged by police or conjured up in his own mind, have been detailed by media outlets around the globe.
It appears the 29-year-old man accused of killing, dismembering and partially cannibalizing a Montreal university student wanted it that way.
Magnotta appeared to live much of his life online, using the Internet to cultivate a dark and twisted, yet sexual image.
It’s an image that’s likely here to stay now that he has been whisked back to Canada on charges including first-degree murder, defiling a corpse, and harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
With Magnotta’s first court appearance Tuesday, and a not guilty plea, he is now firmly in the glare of the spotlight he apparently so desired.
But still hidden from view is his real identity, which is shrouded in mystery.
His pre-Magnotta life is far less chronicled online, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, he did seem to leave some clues.
Before he was accused of killing 33-year-old Jun Lin, suspected of posting video of the aftermath online and mailing body parts to political parties and schools, before a rumour surfaced that he dated Karla Homolka — a rumour many believe he started — and before a video was posted on YouTube showing a man suspected to be Magnotta killing kittens, he was just Eric Newman.
Born Eric Clinton Newman on July 24, 1982 in east-end Toronto, Magnotta shed his original identity with a name change in 2006.
But Luka Magnotta wasn’t born overnight, and he doesn’t seem to have made a smooth, black-and-white transition from one personality to another.
Magnotta has also gone by the aliases Vladimir Romanov and Jimmy, set up dozens of online usernames and maintained 70 Facebook pages and 20 websites, police have said.
A MySpace page created by a Luka Magnotta and dedicated to grandparents Phyllis and Walter Yourkin and their extended family, the Yourkin-Williams clan, says he was raised by them, writing, “Luka Magnotta, he is like a very, very special son to Phyllis and Walter.”
There has been no activity on the page for the past several years, but several old family photos were uploaded, as well as two apparently self-stylized pictures of Magnotta.
In one marked “Eric Newman copyright 2005,” he is wearing a 1940s aviator costume with images of war planes superimposed. It says “Luka Magnotta aka Eric Newman” in red script at the bottom.
Many other Internet postings that appear to come from Magnotta himself describe a childhood with his grandmother, though they don’t always paint as rosy a picture.
On what may have been Magnotta’s personal MySpace page, which can now only be viewed archived, it says Magnotta grew up with “absentee parents” and no boundaries, though he “desperately wanted and needed” them.
His grandmother could not be reached for comment, and all other family members contacted, including his mother Anna Yourkin, did not return requests for comment.
A 1,200-word post by a Vladimir Romanov on a Psych Central “I hate my mother” forum from about nine or 10 months ago rants and rails against the poster’s mom. Romanov says he is now 29 and mostly lived with his grandmother, but says his mother ruined his life.
Romanov says his “extremely manipulative” mother homeschooled him and forced him to wear diapers until the age of seven. He alleges abuse at the hands of a male relative.
He says he became a prostitute and was raped, but used the money to take his mother on “lavish vacations.”
On a MySpace page belonging to an Anna Yourkin there are photos of a blond woman and Magnotta apparently on vacation in a tropical location.
Romanov’s post praises his 24-year-old sister and her three children.
Media reports say Magnotta has a sister named Melissa, and a Melissa is connected on MySpace to the family page set up by a Luka Magnotta. On the page, a Melissa writes, “I love my older brother Luka, he is the kindest person I know and he’s always there when I need him!”
An unnamed relative told the Ottawa Citizen the family hadn’t heard from Magnotta in a while, after he had hurt them when he was younger.
Much of Magnotta’s family lives in Peterborough, Ont., where Magnotta grew up. He also went to school for a few years in nearby Lindsay, Ont., but few former classmates remember him.
The ones who do remember him say he was targeted by bullies and often beaten up.
An aunt told the Peterborough Examiner that Magnotta always had a propensity for concocting stories and had “delusions of grandeur.”
He moved back to Toronto in about 2001 and reportedly got into escort work and worked as a stripper at a Toronto gay bar.
In 2003 he began his sporadic porn career, appearing in three films that year as both Luka and Jimmy, and five more films between then and 2010. Most of the titles indicate it was gay porn.
In 2004 Magnotta was charged in Toronto with several offences for nearly $17,000 in credit card fraud. He pleaded guilty in June 2005 and was handed a nine-month conditional sentence and a year of probation.
However, he declared bankruptcy in 2007 and documents show he owed a “financial and leasing solutions” company $10,000.
He owed $17,000 and had just $6,500 in assets. His job was listed as a server, and his monthly income was just $800.
Besides the leasing company, he owed $800 in parking tickets to the City of Toronto, $2,500 to his property management company and, collectively, thousands to utilities companies.
It appears Magnotta’s lifestyle was not as lucrative as he had hoped — or as he bragged to others. The income on the Luka Magnotta MySpace was listed as $250,000 or higher.
He also lists his heroes as Jesus Christ, James Dean, Madonna and Abraham Lincoln.
It’s hard to know what, if anything, is true in Magnotta’s autobiographical information, and what came from Magnotta himself.
People in the online communities featuring posts about Magnotta certainly feel all of the information came straight from the horse’s mouth. Much of it seems designed to talk up and hype a disturbed character.
There are posts on various blogs, forums and other websites from the past several years that portray depraved or sadistic encounters with relatives.
One blog with only one entry, from August 2008, contains biographical information about Magnotta, but also says “he is in fact now living in the (Caribbean) with his new wife Karla Homolka,” that he is a “master manipulator” and in love with his sister.
“How delusional and sick can one man be?” the anonymous post asks.
“By 2007 though Luka’s relationship with his sister was imploding due to its own moral chaos,” the post concludes.
“Luka is unable to live unless there is chaos in his life, it makes him feel asthough he matters. That is the explanation a psychiatrist has told me when I described this situation.”
Some wonder if Magnotta himself is the only source of rumours that he was dating Karla Homolka. Magnotta went to a Toronto newspaper in 2007 to deny the rumour and deny that he was behind the rumour.
On the Magnotta MySpace page a user “Karla Teale Magnotta” compliments him in vacation footage.
“You are so HOT,” the post says. “Omg. I wish I lived my life like you . . . you have lived one hell of an exciting life. Dont let haters get in the way of your happiness. Your 1 Fan.”
There is also a post from the same Yourkin-Williams family MySpace page that was created on the personal Magnotta page, reading: “Luka Magnotta walks around his condo dressed to the nines in new clothes and then changes every hour. He has a mental disorder and is very very unpredictable. He abuses alot of medication and calls his pills ’vitamins.”’
Posts on MySpace from a Luka Magnotta to a Luka Magnotta read, “Hi Luka, your so amazing. Im your biggiest supporter! i know you dont have time to read all your comments but I hope you read mine! I have been following your career and you have done so great!”
Another one from a Luka Magnotta to a Luka Magnotta says “everyone” thought the movies would be his ticket out of poverty, but he couldn’t cope with success.
“He has no family or real friends,” it says.
He gained a measure of Internet infamy when an online group went after Magnotta in December 2010, when a video was posted on YouTube showing a young man killing two kittens by putting them in an airtight bag and using a vacuum to suck out the air.
British tabloid the Sun reported that that film clip and one of a kitten being fed to a python were sent to their offices along with the warning: “once you kill, and taste blood, it’s impossible to stop.”
The Sun believed it was from Magnotta, based on photos of him in settings similar to the videos, but he denied it and said the newspaper was harassing him.
It also appears someone was posting about the “1 lunatic 1 ice pick” video, purporting to show Jun Lin’s dismemberment, several days before Lin went missing.
The operators of Best Gore, the website that hosted the ice pick video, believe the posts came from Magnotta. Some believe the posts were online before the murder.
“He appears to have wanted to get people talking about the movie and wanting to see it, before he was able to post produce it for ’official release’ on the deep web,” says a post on Best Gore dated June 9.
What will likely be a highly publicized journey through the Canadian justice system only just started with a first court appearance via video Tuesday. A quote on the Luka Magnotta MySpace page seems prophetic.
“Only god can judge me and im waiting for my judgement day,” it said. “Life is too short, live every day like its your last!”