Sharon Lopatka, 35, left her humble house on October 13, 1996, with the intention of never returning.
“If my corpse is never retrieved, don’t worry: know that I’m at peace,” she said in a note to her husband Victor Lopatka.
Lopatka had been harbouring a lethal urge that she had only expressed in the darkest reaches of the internet, unbeknownst to her husband.
Lopatka finally met Robert “Bobby” Glass, a recently divorced computer expert, who shared her bizarre tastes.
Lopatka was discovered in a shallow grave not long after meeting Glass.
Nothing in Lopatka’s life indicated that she was a secret “severe fetishist.”
Former classmates characterised her as “as normal as you can get,” having been raised by Orthodox Jewish parents.
She married her husband Victor shortly after graduating from high school, a union that many saw as more of a convenience than a true love match.
Despite this, the couple appeared to live a peaceful and cheerful life in Hampstead, Maryland, USA.
Lopatka was an early internet entrepreneur, starting an online advertising business in 1995 that entailed creating classified ad material and selling home decoration guidelines.
Lopatka originally discovered pornographic chat rooms and the booming online BDSM community through her online sales profession.
Lopatka soon combined business and pleasure by distributing extreme pornographic content under the alias ‘Nancy Carlson,’ a deviant alter ego through which she explored violent impulses.
VHS videos of simulated rape with women being drugged or hypnotised before being sexually abused were marketed and promoted by ‘Nancy.’
‘Nancy’ was also a big fan of the online feeder/gainer subculture, which is a type of fat fetishism in which people get sexual pleasure from gaining weight or watching others gain weight.
Lopatka, who was already overweight, fantasised about having someone feed her till she reached a weight of 215 kg.
She wrote, “I am not interested in e-mail correspondence or a phone feeding. What I actually want is the genuine article! If necessary, I am willing to be force-fed in order to achieve my goal.”
Lopatka began posting demands for someone to torture and kill her after becoming a regular on extreme fetish newsgroups.
She wrote, “I kind of have a fascination with tormenting until death. I’d like to correspond with someone via email.”
Even extreme fetishists were alarmed by the request.
Tanith Tyrr, a user, told the Washington Post that she tried to reach out to Lopatka and persuade her to abandon her violent inclinations.
“I want to entirely surrender. “I want to die,” Lopatka said at first, but as Tyrr pleaded with her to seek help, Lopatka said, “I want the genuine thing.” I didn’t ask for you to give me a sermon.”
Glass, who was also a regular on extreme BDSM forums, finally linked with Lopatka.
Glass was seen as reclusive but harmless by friends, with one former coworker describing him as a “mild-mannered guy” who “kept to small talk.”
Glass, like Lopatka, has been living a second life online as an attractive, vicious dominant seeking female submissives under the moniker “Slowhand.”
Glass’ wife had recently left him because of his online fantasy obsession, albeit even she didn’t realise the degree of his perverted fantasies.
Lopatka and Glass met in person to fulfil their dark fantasy after six weeks of intense email exchanges totalling over 900 pages.
Soon after discovering her note, Victor Lopatka reported his wife missing to the police.
Police traced down Glass by going through the online transactions that remained on Sharon Lopatka’s computer, which was a first at the time.
After observing Glass’ home for several days, authorities inspected the land and discovered Lopatka’s remains in a shallow grave.
The cause of death was determined to be strangling after an autopsy.
Glass admitted to satisfying Lopatka’s torture fantasies during interrogation, but claimed that her death was an accident. He stated, “I never wanted to kill her.”
The accusations of a “fetish gone awry” were regarded with scepticism at first, with many seeing them as a sexual predator’s attempt to avoid a severe sentence.
When Lopatka’s internet activities were fully revealed, however, the overall reaction was one of confusion.
The Baltimore Sun quoted Capt. Danny Barlow of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department as saying, “Everything about this case is odd.”
What would cause someone to sexually crave her own death, everyone wanted to know.
John Money, a sexologist, was the first to identify autassassinophilia as a paraphilia.
Someone who is sexually aroused by “stage-managing and carrying out the murder of an unsuspecting sexual partner” was mentioned in the article.
It was obvious that Lopatka was an autassassinophiliac, but it was less clear what drove her to these impulses.
Many speculated about Lopatka’s miserable marriage, her weight, and other reasons that may have contributed to her self-harm.
What we do know about Lopatka’s life, however, does not fit the stereotype of a miserable individual consumed with self-hatred.
Lopatka’s friend Diane Safer told the Baltimore Sun, “What I want people to know is the woman I knew was not crazy in the least.”
“She was constantly in a good mood.”
The online BDSM community was one group that was having trouble coping with the news.
Many in the group wanted to disassociate themselves from her fate, stating, “I don’t know what they were doing, but it wasn’t S&M.”
On the most extreme newsgroups, however, there were still some defenders.
On an alt.sex group, user “Perro Loco“ described Glass as “a compassionate man” who regretted that “he should have taken her somewhere’safer’ to ‘do’ her.”
While there were many grey areas in the moral debates surrounding the case, the legal issues were pretty easy.
Except in very limited circumstances, such as euthanasia, it is well-established legislation that a person cannot consent to their own death.
Glass was sentenced to slightly over six years in jail after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and sexual exploitation offences.
He would never be released from prison, dying of a heart attack after only two years.
While Lopatka’s story may appear to be unique, it is part of a lengthy history of people risking their lives in the pursuit of strong sexual desires.
Five years after the Lopatka case, Germany was riveted by the story of Armin Meiwes, a so-called “consensual cannibal” who met his willing victim, Bernd Brandes, through an online forum called Cannibal Café.
Meiwes cooked and ate parts of his willing victim over time.
For his conduct, Meiwes was apprehended, charged, and sentenced to life in prison. In prison, he is said to have become a vegetarian.