Mary Kay Beckman sues Match.com after attempted murder
This story sounds like something out of Dexter, but it's all too real. Las Vegas resident Mary Kay Beckman found a match on Match.com in September 2010, a man named Wade Mitchell Ridley. The two went on a date and did not quite hit it off. Beckman thought there was something a bit off about Ridley, and she was horribly, horribly right.
In January 2011, Wade Ridley showed up at Mary Beckman's house, where he stabbed her until his knife broke. Ridley then began kicking Beckman in the head.
Wade Ridley was arrested on Valentine's Day 2011, after allegedly murdering a second woman, Anne Simenson with a machete. The motive was apparently the same: Ridley felt scorned after Simenson broke up with him; they had first met back in 2002.
Wade Ridley was arrested for the attempted murder of Mary Beckman, and went to prison in a plea deal. Ridley was not charged with the murder of Phoenix, Arizona resident Anne Simenson (even though he was driving Simenson's car at the time of his arrest).
In May 2012, Wade Ridley committed suicide in prison.
Fast-forward to January 2013, and Mary Beckman is suing Match.com for $10 million. Beckman argues that the dating website should have done more to warn her (and others) of the potential risks of meeting a stranger via the Web, and should have done a better job of screening out would-be murderers from its member base.
"The many millions of people who have found love on Match.com and other online dating sites know how fulfilling it is. And while that doesn't make what happened in this case any less awful, this is about a sick, twisted individual with no prior criminal record, not an entire community of men and women looking to meet each other."
Is a dating website responsible for murder?
This story is the worst-case scenario for online dating: you end up matched with someone who later tries to kill you. However, is it truly the dating website's fault?
If you place "Will you try to murder your date?" as a profile item, nobody's going to tick "Yes".
If you try to come up with an algorithm which assigns a sort of Dexter-rating to potential matches, you will hit another obstacle: people lie on their profiles.
This is the Internet, folks. People lie about who they are and what they do. There's a level of obfuscation involved that you don't get when meeting a stranger face-to-face, despite the meet-cute imagery used by dating websites: if you meet a stranger at a bar or club or park, you can at least see them and get a basic vibe.
Meeting total strangers via the Web carries an inherent level of risk. In other words, if you date strangers via the Internet, something bad might happen to you. Protect yourself: meet in public places, and be careful about letting your date know where you live.
Sadly, there's nothing that Match.com (or any other site) can do about it. A disclaimer (which Match.com and others already have, as well as online dating safety tips) can't make decisions for you... and, due the above-mentioned obfuscation, making a good call is much harder, since you're working with ridiculously imperfect information.
Really, the attempted murder of Mary Beckett was Wade Ridley's fault, not Match.com's.