What Happened To Crystal Theobald's Mother?

For those in the horror-flick know, "screen-based" films have already supplanted the kitschy mountaintop held by found footage films since the days of 1999's The Blair Witch Project. Screen-based films present their entire films as computer screens, as if viewers are watching an actual computer, complete with UI, multiple windows, cursors, logins, etc. The subgenre capitalizes on, and portrays, the fears of modernity in a very obvious way: being surveilled, remaining unheard, being disconnected, losing identity, and so on. In an era of multimedia pluralization (i.e., anyone can make a video and get attention), something about "screen-based" films scratches an itch in the psyche of a public intent on self-celebrification.

The most lauded of these films, easily, is 2018's Searching, about a father who uses YouTube, FaceTime, Google, etc., to hunt for his missing daughter. An earlier film, 2014's Unfriended, features a deceased, once-bullied classmate taking vengeance on the living through social media. 

So what if you take both of these films, smash them together, and presto: true story. This is almost precisely the case of the murder of 24-year-old Crystal Theobald in 2006.  

Crystal was driving with her mom, Belinda Lane, and her boyfriend Justin, in Riverside, California, when they stopped at an intersection. Out from a nearby Ford Expedition stepped local gang members looking for a rival gang to "mess with," as the Washington Post describes. They opened fire on Crystal's car, shooting her in the head and igniting mother Belinda Lane's decade-long quest of vengeance.

Driven by vengeance, attaining closure

The last thing Lane told her daughter was, "Baby girl, I promise you if it takes my last breath, I will get them; I promise you, you will have justice." And indeed, she was right. As recently as 2020, the final suspect in the case, 31-year-old William Sotelo, was sentenced to 22 years after being tracked down in Mexico, as the Independent says. As the Press Enterprise says, ten others were convicted of various charges related to the crime, including gunman Julio Heredia, who was sentenced to life without parole in 2011.

All of this stems from Lane using now-defunct MySpace to lure and hunt down the killers. As the Daily Mail says, she recruited her niece Jaimie to make an online profile under the name "Angel" to pose as Lane's deceased daughter, Crystal. They chatted with the criminals, tracked them down, and collaborated with authorities to get the job done. 

Lane admits to being motivated by vengeance above all else, to the point where she wanted to murder the offenders. There is little word about how she is doing now; after all, the final criminal in the case was only recently convicted. We can assume that after such a long ordeal, it will take some time for her to readjust to a normal life. This sentiment was echoed by Riverside Police Sgt. Rick Wheeler, who said, "I'm just glad the family can have some peace. It puts another layer of closure on this."