The Sheriff's Office in Seminole County, Florida, said Friday that it has asked Facebook to provide access to Instagram Direct messages sent between two men and their former roommate, whom they are accused of killing over a stolen PlayStation.
Investigators said Jake Bilotta and Ian McClurg contacted Josh Barnes through Instagram to try to lure him to their home in the Fern Creek neighborhood so they could kill him.
The Sheriff's Office said in a search warrant filed last week that it wants Instagram to turn over records, including posts, metadata, direct messages, photographs and videos from Bilotta and McClurg's accounts.
McClurg said Bilotta baited Barnes on Nov. 26, 2018, by inviting him to their South Boulevard home prior to a party, deputies said.
Detectives said McClurg told them several times that Bilotta said he was going to kill Barnes.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it could take some time for Instagram to compile the data investigators seek, but it will be sent.
"Instagram will respond to a valid federal or state warrant seeking information, including content that they will have in their possession," he said.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Bob Kealing said digital footprints can provide critical evidence for investigations.
"Those electronic trails often fill in some of the very important holes in cases," he said. "It's such an important tool in our toolbox, and it's something we use all the time."
The warrant said Bilotta fled the home, but he was captured nearby with a bloodstained shirt and hands.
"I had to do it. I shouldn't have run," he is alleged to have said.
Bilotta and McClurg have court dates scheduled for March.