Updated: Feb 25, 2020
In 1997, when I was nine, my family got a new computer and, for the first time, we had internet access in our home. Today, the internet is so easily accessible we barley even think about it. In my bedroom alone, my phone, my Playstation, three separate laptops, my kindle and even my printer all have internet capabilities in some capacity. But in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the internet was a relatively new thing, and kids my age ate it up.
To us, the internet was a whole new world full of exciting opportunities, right at our fingertips. The internet has done a lot of great things -- you wouldn’t even be able to watch this video without it. But there’s also a dark side to it. This is the story of Kacie Woody, who was born just a year after me and did a lot of the same things I did online in the early 2000’s. But unfortunately, her story turned out much different.
Kacie Rene Woody was born on October 17, 1989 in Little Rock, Arkansas, the third child of Kristie and Rick Woody. She was also welcomed by two older brothers, Austin and Tim. Shortly after her birth, Kacie was diagnosed with meconium aspiration syndrome, a lung complication that affects newborns. She spent several weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (or NICU), and came close to death, but eventually managed to pull through.
Kacie grew up in Holland, Arkansas, a community of less than 600 people about 50 miles north of Little Rock. In 1997, when Kacie was just seven, the entire Woody family was in their car when two horses ran in front of them on the road, causing a wreck. Kacie’s mother, Kristie, was killed in the accident. Kacie rarely talked about this with anyone, and developed a hatred of horses afterward. Ironically, though, Kristie had loved horses, and Kacie inherited her mother’s collection of horse figurines after the accident, which she kept in her bedroom for the rest of her life.
As she got older, Kacie seemed to flourish. By 2002, she was a seventh grader at Greenbrier Middle School, where she sang in the choir and played saxophone. She loved singing and poetry and was said to be quiet around people she didn’t know, but bubbly and lively around her friends. Kacie had been in the Greenbrier school system since kindergarten. Her brother Austin had played football, and both her brothers had been basketball stars. So she was pretty well known among her peers.
Due to her mother’s early death, she was also said to constantly be looking for a mother figure. At one point she also spent an entire day looking for someone who would let her get her ears pierced without parental permission. She was also much more responsible than many other girls her age. She did her own laundry, cooked and didn’t have to be told to do her homework. Kacie’s father, Rick, who worked as a police officer, often had to work night shifts and be away from Kacie for long periods of time. At this point, I believe Austin had already moved out of the house. But Rick relied on Tim, who still lived at home, as well as Kacie’s aunt Teresa, who lived next door, and her grandmother to help with his already precocious daughter.
But Kacie grew up in an interesting time. Like I said earlier, the early 2000’s saw a huge spike in home internet use. To a 13-year-old, especially one living in a small town where it’s unlikely many interesting things happened, the internet was probably very appealing.
And Kacie definitely utilized it. On New Year’s Eve 2001, she met a boy named Dave in a Christian chat room. She and her friends had joined the chatroom because they felt safer there, though there wasn’t much going on in the chats that related to Christianity.
Dave told Kacie that he was 17 and lived in San Diego. To Kacie and her friends, who lived in what they probably perceived as the middle of nowhere, a California boy seemed extra cool.
Kacie and Dave seemed to hit it off pretty quickly, bonding over their shared love of Elvis as well as music in general. They ended up exchanging photos and phone numbers.
Kacie quickly warmed up to Dave, and soon told him about her mother’s death. This was something she didn’t like talking about much, even to her closest friends, so opening up to Dave was probably huge for her. And after this, he told her his own, similar story — his aunt had been in a car wreck not too long ago and was now in a coma. The prognosis was grim. The fact that they both had loved ones who had been in serious car wrecks brought them even closer.
There’s conflicting information about how Kacie’s friends felt about Dave. One source said they talked to him frequently on Yahoo messenger, and that they considered him a friend. Others said they were skeptical. Kacie’s friend Samantha said she wasn’t sure Dave was really a teenager because he used words like “groovy” and “wicked” — things teenagers in 2002 wouldn’t have said in casual conversation.
At first, Rick wasn’t too concerned about Kacie’s new online friend. As long as she was in her own house, he felt that she was safe. But at some point during her friendship with Dave, he turned 18. When Rick found out about this, he told Kacie to stop communicating with Dave. But she didn’t listen.
Kacie and Dave’s relationship did briefly cross that threshold from ‘friends’ to ‘more than friends.’ But in May 2002, she met a boy named Scott online. Scott told her he was 14 and lived in Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.
One source said Kacie and Scott officially began dating on October 3. But Samantha said in a documentary they started dating a week after they met online. So I’m not sure what caused the discrepancy here. But what is clear is that Kacie ended up breaking up with Dave to be with Scott, but she and Dave maintained their friendship.
Dave’s aunt, who was still in a coma from her car accident, lived in Arkansas. Kacie and her friends often talked about the possibility of the two of them meeting up if he was ever in the area to visit his aunt. But Kacie always maintained that she didn’t have any plans to meet him in person.
Kacie’s friends were clearly worried about her online habits. She had apparently only known Scott for a couple of weeks before she gave him her home address, and she had been talking to Dave on the phone for quite some time. On the morning of Tuesday, December 3, 2002, Samantha talked to their school counselor, expressing concern over Kacie’s online romances. The counselor brought Kacie in and attempted to warn her of the dangers of giving out too much information online, but Kacie didn’t appear to grasp the seriousness of it. She was angry at Samantha, but they ended up patching things up by the end of the day.
After school, Kacie asked Samantha if she could spend the night. But Samantha said no because she knew her mom wouldn’t let them have a sleepover on a school night. Kacie asked several of her other girlfriends the same question, but was met with similar responses, I assume with similar reasoning.
The night of December 3 was 39 degrees Fahrenheit and rainy. Kacie’s brother Tim, a college student, still lived at home but was either at the library or at a night class, depending on which source you read. Eric Betts, a friend of Tim’s who was staying with the family at the time, was also at a night class. Rick Woody was at work, and his shift wasn’t scheduled to end until 2 am. He’d thought about calling in sick due to a sinus infection, but went in anyway. Kacie’s aunt Teresa, who lived next door, was at her son’s basketball game. Kacie was alone and, as she usually did, left the doors unlocked and the lights on.
That night, like many nights, Kacie was talking to her friend Dave. Dave was especially upset that night. He said he was actually in Arkansas and had been driving from California for the past four days. His aunt’s prognosis was more grim than ever, and she wasn’t expected to live much longer. So he wanted to pay her one last visit.
Either during or after her conversation with Dave, Kacie was also chatting online with her boyfriend, Scott. Scott received his last message from Kacie around 9:41 pm. After that, she suddenly stopped responding.
Scott continued to message Kacie but got no response. He called the Woody house around 10:15 pm, but there was no answer. He continued to message Kacie, but still got nothing. Around 10:45 pm, he sent an e-mail to Kacie’s friend Jessica, but Jessica didn’t see it until the next morning.
Eric Betts got home around 10:17 and assumed Kacie was in bed. He stayed up for awhile doing laundry, but around 11:30 he realized she wasn’t in her room. When Tim got home a few minutes later, Eric asked him where Kacie was, but Tim didn’t know either. They called Rick, who had also assumed she was at home. They called aunt Teresa and some of Kacie’s friends, but they didn’t know anything either. So Rick called the sheriff’s office.
Investigators knew pretty quickly that Kacie had probably met with foul play. There were signs of forced entry and a struggle. Her two jackets and shoes were still where she’d left them earlier that day. Nothing else was missing from the home except Kacie’s pajamas, which she’d presumably been wearing when she left. Even her broken eyeglasses were found in the home. On a cold, rainy night, Kacie leaving the house without her glasses, jackets or shoes was very unlikely.
Fortunately, there were clues. Kacie’s computer was still open to her chats with Scott. She had been talking to Scott about Dave, telling him that she was talking to Dave on the phone.
Samantha and Jessica found out about her abduction the next morning. At first, they thought Scott may be behind it. Investigators were able to get in touch with Scott, who turned out to be just who he said he was —a 14-year-old boy from the suburbs of Atlanta. Eric was also able to get in touch with Scott, who confirmed that Kacie had simply stopped responding the night before and he didn’t know what happened.
The search continued, with police going door to door in the neighborhood asking for information, and volunteers searching the woods around their home. Then someone — I’m not sure if it was investigators or Kacie’s friends — thought back to her online friend Dave.
Dave had told Kacie that his name was David Fagen, but tracing him online led to some very interesting things.
Dave’s real name was David Fuller. He was 47 and lived in La Mesa, California, a suburb of San Diego. He was married and had two children, though his wife had filed for divorce in July. He’d also recently been fired from his job as a used car salesman after being caught with child porn on a work computer. At some point, he’d been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. He’d also previously been accused of inappropriate behavior with his 7-year-old daughter and investigated by Child Protective Services, but nothing came of that either.
Police were able to trace Fuller via his internet history and obtain his credit card records. On December 4, the day after the abduction, his card had been charged for a storage unit he’d bought a month earlier. That storage unit was in Conway, Arkansas — just down the road from Holland.
Investigators looked into hotels in the area for any suspicious travelers and found a David Fuller registered at a nearby Motel 6. He’d arrived on December 2 and was scheduled to stay for a week. The hotel manager remembered David clearly, who got angry when he couldn’t connect to the internet from his room and stormed off to a local library. I’m not sure if he couldn’t get online because there were problems with the internet, or if an internet connection to hotel rooms just wasn’t possible at the time. After all, this was 2002.
Investigators wondered if David was holding Kacie in this storage unit and hurried there, hoping they’d find her alive. On the way, they heard a report that the minivan David had rented was spotted in Little Rock and grew hopeful, believing he was still in the area. They thought he’d gotten scared because of the publicity surrounding the kidnapping and had run, leaving Kacie alive in the unit.
Police got to the storage unit between 5 pm and 6 pm — again, depending on what source you read. The door to David’s unit was closed but unlocked, and they opened it. As the door opened, they saw a silver minivan with the engine running — and heard a gunshot.
A SWAT team surrounded the unit, trying to coax someone out but getting no response. Around 8:30 pm, they entered the unit, where they found the body of David Fuller, who had died from a self inflicted gunshot wound, presumably just as they had opened the unit door. Inside the van, they also found the body of Kacie Woody.
Kacie had also died from a single gunshot wound to the head. She had been taken from her house the night before, presumably by David, who covered her mouth with a chloroform soaked rag, knocking her unconscious. David had been in the unit since around 10:15 pm on December 3. He’d left the storage unit once, around 7:24 am on December 4 to go to a convenience store. Police believe he was planning to escape the storage unit once it got dark on the night of the 4th.
The medical examiner was unable to determine Kacie’s time of death since she could have been unconscious for awhile, maybe even the entire time she was in the unit. But at some point between her abduction and David’s suicide, she was raped and murdered.
About a week before Kacie’s murder, David Fuller’s neighbors noticed his abrupt departure. He didn’t tell anyone he was leaving or where he was going, but he was presumably traveling to kill Kacie. Once in Arkansas, he continued to talk to Kacie on the phone, still posing as 18-year-old Dave. He’d also made a weekend trip to the same area of Arkansas in October, and police believe he went there to spy on Kacie and her family.
There was one incident described in a documentary where Samantha and Jessica were over at Kacie’s house and heard the floorboards creaking, as if someone was there. Nobody was ever found, and the incident seemed to pass with no negative consequences other than fear. I couldn’t find exactly when this incident took place, but if it took place in October, I wonder if it was David Fuller in the house.
After Kacie’s murder, police looked further into David Fuller to see if he could be connected to any other crimes. He had lured in other girls online in a similar manner to the way he’d lured Kacie, but none had ended in violence. Rick Woody, along with Jessica and Samantha, later set up The Kacie Woody Foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of online predators.
So now I want to talk about a related subject that I hadn’t intended to talk about when I started researching for this video, but something that kept coming up in my research. I just wanted to address it make you aware of it because it came up so often that it would feel weird to ignore it, and it’s something you may already know about.
One of the sources I used for this video was a four part article series in an Arkansas newspaper called the Democrat-Gazette. The first part of “Caught in the Web” was published in 2003 and written by journalist Cathy Frye. With “Caught in the Web,” Cathy aimed to use Kacie’s story to make more parents aware of the problems with online predators. Frye earned numerous awards for the series and, at one point, movie rights, I assume to information from the article or Kacie’s story in general, we’re being discussed.
In August 2019, so not too long ago, Frye commented on a Facebook post* written in May by Ashley Flowers, one of the hosts of the Crime Junkies podcast. Frye’s post accused Flowers of reading sections of her article verbatim without giving credit or citing the article as a source. She also accused Flowers of doing this on several other episodes of the podcast, as well as disrespecting victims and their loved ones, exploiting true crime stories for entertainment and money. Frye threatened legal action if the podcasts weren’t taken down.
*This links to the Facebook post — scroll down a bit to see Cathy Frye’s response
This story quickly caught on, and at least two more accusations of plagiarism followed in the coming days. Flowers and her team deleted several episodes of the Crime Junkies podcast. The Democrat-Gazette sent a cease-and-desist order to Flowers later that month. Flowers had until September 12 to respond, a date that has come and gone. Frye did say later in the Facebook post that Flowers and her co-host, Brit Prawat, hadn’t complied. As of November 2019, the episode is back up on the Crime Junkies website, along with a list of sources cited.
This story made pretty big news, especially in the true crime community. Here on YouTube, I know there was some talk not only about the importance of citing sources, but about respect for victims. Ever since I started making true crime videos on this channel, I’ve always done my best to cite my sources. Some of my older videos don’t have sources on them because the blog entries I put them on and then linked to are no longer there due to issues with my web host, but that’s a different story. I’ve also been very careful to be as respectful as possible when discussing these cases. The last thing I want is for a loved one of a crime victim to come across one of my videos and feel like I’ve been disrespectful, though that is subjective to a degree. And with all my videos, but especially this particular one, I’m always very careful to word things in my own way or to at least give credit to the source when I read out a quote.
As for these plagiarism allegations, I can’t really comment on them. I’ve never listened to the Crime Junkies podcast, and I don’t want this to be the the focus of the video anyway. But I did feel the need to bring it up because I saw so many articles about it when I was researching this case.
So in addition to the plagiarism debate, this case obviously brings up a lot of issues about internet safety. Now, in the year 2019, it’s something it seems like we don’t give as much thought as we should. If you pay attention to my internet history, you already know my full name as well as the general area of the world where I live. How often do we store passwords in our phone and stay logged into all our various website and apps, while never giving the possibility of hacking a second thought?
But with that being said, I also think kids today are much more aware of the dangers of meeting people online. If you’re a teenager in 2019, you’ve grown up with the internet and are more accustomed to it. A lot of people my age are having kids now, and since we were the first generation to really experience the internet widespread, we also know more about how to handle it than our parents did. So maybe kids growing up and now and kids that will be born later will have a better grasp on this sort of thing and these sorts of crimes will decrease.
So that’s just about all I have for you today on Kacie Woody. Kacie was just a year younger than me, and we had a lot in common, so I connected with this story a bit more than I have for others.
But, as always, I want to know your thoughts. What do you think of this story? How do you think parents and other caregivers can strike a balance between keeping kids safe online and not invading their privacy? Let me know in the comments.