Did a 48-year-old man named Paul Houston (or somebody else) from Chowan County in North Carolina (or some other location) kill his wife using a condom filled with frozen poo? No, that's not true: a fake news site disguised as a local news outlet published a fictional story making that claim but it is not real.
The story originated from an article published by News Insider (aka sunday-herald.com) on January 13, 2019 titled "Chowan County: Man admits using condom filled with frozen poo to kill wife" (archived here) which opened:
A 48-year old Chowan County, NC man has been charged with the murder of his 42-year old wife in a case that has baffled investigators.
Paul Houston was under suspicion of murdering his wife Rebecca with a blunt object, but investigators who searched their residence could find no weapon matching the injuries inflicted on her.
"The forensic analysis suggested the victim was bludgeoned to death with a small, blunt object, but nothing found at the property met the profile," said one investigator.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail so it would have looked like an article from a real news outlet to them:
A 48-year old Chowan County, NC man has been charged with the murder of his 42-year old wife in a case that has baffled investigators.Paul Houston was under suspicion of murdering his wife Rebecca with a blunt object, but investigators who searched t
But the crime scene photo illustrating the tale was actually taken in 2013 in Smithfield after a shooting:
Three people were shot Thursday afternoon in the 500 block of Mill Street in Smithfield, according to investigators. Police said there were dispatched to 509 Mill Street for a disturbance call around 1:42 p.m. and then later learned that numerous shots had been fired as well.
The site publishing the hoax is part of a larger network of sites all designed to look like local news sites or sites from real U.S. news and entertainment brands. Older sites we identified as being part of this network include:
The current site shares several advertising network ID codes with other sites in this network and uses the same WordPress template previously used by several other of the older sites.
Stories published by the network are often copied or inspired by older hoaxes from other satire or fake news sites but the quality of the writing is usually markedly better. The setting of the events is often some small town somewhere in the United States and in many cases the main illustration used is a picture found on the internet showing a police car from the local police force or a sign with the town's name on it. The same story is often re-used by changing the location and/or names of the people involved.
The more recent sites in the network all carry disclaimers at the bottom of the page that read:
[Name of the site] is the second most infamous fauxtire & satire entertainment website in the world. If it's disturbingly funny, you will find it here. © 2019 - [Name of the site]. All Rights Reserved.
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