The Influencer and the Hit Man
How a years-long domain name feud ended in a bloody shootout
When Ethan Deyo’s small, sandy-haired dog cocked his head and perked up his ears, Deyo knew something was wrong. Deyo stepped out of the second-floor office of his Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home and peered down the stairs. That’s when he saw a man with a gun standing in his foyer, and he began to understand the peril he was in.
“Come here, motherfucker!” Deyo remembered the man screaming, pointing a gun at him. The gunman wore a baseball cap, had pantyhose pulled over his face, and sunglasses covered his eyes.
Deyo briefly raised his arms in surrender — then bolted into his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him and braced for impact. Moments later, the intruder kicked through the doorway and grabbed Deyo by the neck.
“Where’s your computer?” he demanded. According to Deyo’s courtroom testimony, he led the man across the hall and into his office with the gun now shoved into the small of his back. He sat down, the man opened up his MacBook Pro, and Deyo felt the gun move from his spine to the rear of his skull, the metal hard on his scalp.
“Okay, motherfucker,” Deyo recalled him saying. “GoDaddy.com.”
The man handed him a piece of paper, which contained handwritten directions on how to transfer the domain name DoItForState.com from Deyo to someone else. Deyo knew the domain name well; ever since he and his brother purchased it two years earlier, DoItForState.com had brought them nothing but grief.
To most of the public, “Do It For State” sounds like a word salad or a patriotic call to duty, but on college campuses around the United States, the four words have become shorthand for a burst of online notoriety. “Do It For State” is the hyperviral tagline associated with the social media company State Snaps, which aggregates and posts debaucherous college-aged behavior on its Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts for the entertainment of millions of adoring, chuckleheaded fans. In these videos, a young person is seen doing something dumb or salacious…