Helen Hastings, 18, was shot in the head by her close friend, Yandere Snow, an internet-famous cosplayer. But after Snow was charged with manslaughter, Snow kept posting provocative TikToks
Helen Hastings was shot and killed in an accident by their friend, TikTok influencer Mary-Anne Oliver-Snow. Why did Snow keep posting afterward?
People in the community report that Snow was constantly flanked by their friends, many of whom lived in the same house as them, also did cosplay, and regularly appeared in Snow’s posts. Those outside this circle report being highly unsettled by Snow and their friends’ behavior, with more than one person describing the social circle as “toxic.” What was particularly disturbing, say Helen’s friends, was Snow and their friends’ habit of lapsing in and out of their alternate identities, or “alters,” which were usually based on anime characters. And most of these identities were villains, such as Toga from the anime
My Hero Academia.On their website, linked in their Instagram, Snow had a list of “alters” for their “system,” with a wide range of gender identities and ages, and would frequently post under various alters on their Instagram. Morgan Gross, who dated Helen during their senior year at Fusion Academy, a local private school, says that when she used to hang out with Helen and their friends at Snow’s house, there was a “weird distinction” between people who claimed to be actually diagnosed with DID, or dissociative identity disorder, and people who merely “kinned” other characters, or strongly identified with them.
Gross’s initiation to this dynamic was a pool party at Helen’s parents’ house, when she witnessed a member of Snow’s household acting “very strangely,” with a different, squeakier voice and a shier, more anxious personality. That’s when Morgan realized what was going on. “There was a lot of bouncing around between identities, and they enforced each other’s issues with identity,” she says. “In my opinion it was very unhealthy, but it was not the opinion of the people in that house. For them it was, ‘Hey, I’m 15 people and I’m never going to address why, or how it might affect those around me.’ ” On more than one occasion, Gross says, she saw these personalities become violent, with people in the house shoving each other or slapping each other while shifting into these alters. headtopics.com
Bailey also spent some time with Snow and their friends. She says they were almost constantly stoned or inebriated, and while she never witnessed any violent or unhinged behavior, she did see some red flags that disturbed her, particularly Snow’s strong identification with Junko. Junko’s own struggles with identity are central to her character: Junko falls in love with a neurologist who wipes her memory, convincing her she is a different person after she takes a life. “She is sort of the mastermind behind the whole killing game and the main antagonist for all the games,” says Bailey. “I didn’t feel comfortable being around someone who said, ‘I am her. She is me. We are the same.’ ”
It is unknown whether Snow or any of their friends actually had DID. When reached for comment, Mayr, Snow’s lawyer, says he “cannot confirm or deny any sort of psychological diagnosis”; when asked specifically whether Snow had DID, he says, “To be quite honest with you, that is the first I have heard of it.” But it is not unheard of for people in various online subcultures, not just the cosplay scene, to
self-identify as having DID, or to shift into other alters. “I’ve seen an increasing number of TikTok accounts that I thought were cosplayers, but they say, ‘This is not a cosplay, this is my headmate,’ ” says Orsini. “So they are not dressed as aHomestuck
troll, they have a second personality that is identical to that fictional troll.”DID is a highly stigmatized and often misunderstood condition, and despite the stereotypes associated with it, those who have been diagnosed with DID are also far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to perpetrate it, says Dr. David Spiegel, a Willson Professor and an associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. “They’re more likely to be hurt than to hurt people,” he says. headtopics.com
Spiegel says he has heard of people with DID gravitating toward each other, and in some cases living together, which he says can be a double-edged sword. “In principle, it’s a good idea. People can help one another,” he says. “But anything that has the power to help has the power to hurt. And it’s conceivable that people with the same aggregation of problems can lead to reinforcement of bad things.”
As Helen was drawn further into Snow’s orbit, they would increasingly explore other “kinnies,” or characters they identified with, often posting as them on their other Instagram accounts. Helen’s friends say Helen was extremely protective of Snow, who had stood by Helen during their abusive relationship; Helen “loved [Snow] platonically,” says Piinker, and would always defend Snow against the cyclone of controversies they courted.
But as Helen became more immersed in Snow’s social circle, her friends and family members started to notice her displaying increasingly troubling behavior. Snow and their roommates drank and smoked weed frequently, which Susan disapproved of; when they came by the Hastings household for Thanksgivings and to swim in the pool, they would swipe towels and avoid eye contact with Helen’s parents. “At some point I did get the feeling where they were trying to drive a wedge between her and us and her and her whole lifestyle,” says Susan. At one point, while they were still in high school, Helen said that they wanted to drop out and work at Goodwill, reportedly prompted by her friends. This infuriated Susan. “I think people who really cared about her wouldn’t have said that,” says Susan. “Helen could do so much. I don’t think people who love you and see that you have potential should tell you to drop out of school.”
Through it all, however, Helen steadfastly stood by Snow and their friends. Friends say that Helen was willing to acknowledge Snow was complicated, but they never heard Helen speak badly about them, because Helen was just not the type to speak badly about people. Besides, Helen’s loved ones reasoned, Snow seemed to care for Helen. “I think Helen was of the mindset, ‘Oh, Snow would never do anything to harm me,’ ” says Lace. ” ‘Snow would never hurt me.’ “ headtopics.com
In the summer of 2020,two weeks before Helen left for her first semester of college, she moved out of her parents’ house and into the house where Snow and their friends lived, on the outskirts of Houston. It was a dilapidated house, and far out of the way from the metropolitan area; the house was also full of animals, and it frequently smelled strongly of cat urine and vomit. But Helen was restless, and according to their friends, there was rising tension between Helen and their family. Susan says that her relationship with Helen was not so much fraught at that point, but that Helen left because, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging and Helen’s parents being high risk, “Helen had a choice between living with her two old-fart parents and never seeing her friends, and then going to see her friends all the time. She wanted to be independent, like all kinds of kids did.” And although she wasn’t thrilled Helen was moving out of the house, she reluctantly agreed.
In the fall of 2020, Susan and Helen drove up to Oberlin College, where she would spend her first and only semester as a college student. Susan was sanguine that Helen would at some point return home. “I thought she’d find that she could have a community of all different kinds of people [at Oberlin] who could accept her for who she was,” Susan says. “And once she could internalize that, I thought that particular group of friends” — meaning, Snow and Co. — “was not going to be around forever.” She believed that Helen’s association with Snow was just a phase. “
Teenagers have to rebel against their parents. I thought she would come back,” she says. “[But] that trip we spent staying in hotels and trying not to get Covid — I feel like that was really our goodbye.”At Oberlin, Helen did indeed appear to find her people. “From what I could tell, Helen felt like she finally had a place to be,” says Bailey. “Oberlin was her place … they were, in my opinion, really ready to fully become themselves.” What was really striking to Bailey was that Helen had stopped posting so much on her alt accounts. She was quick to make friends; according to Susan, one student who wrote to her after Helen died said that on election night, when they were both wired on anxiety, they both mentioned how touch-starved they were from all of the social distancing on campus, and just sat outside and held hands in silence.
Helen’sfirst semester on campus ended abruptly in November 2020, due to a Covid-19 resurgence and an edict from Gov. Mike DeWine shutting down schools. Helen went back to Snow’s house in Houston, continuing her classes virtually. She occasionally visited her parents’ house — bringing her friends over for an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner, and having brandy and eggnog with her mom on Christmas Eve. For Christmas, Helen got a photo printer; Willa the cat had her very own stocking.
Helen’s friend Elizabeth Hawk says that just a few days before Helen was set to return to campus in January,she received a message from Helen on Discord. The message simply said “Hey.” But by the time Hawk actually saw it, Helen was dead. In the early hours of Sunday morning
, Jan. 17, Helen, Snow, and five of their friends were drinking vodka, Dr. Pepper, and Coca-Cola at the home they shared in Houston. At some point in the evening, according to court documents and witness statements, while they were watching the TV show
Gotham,Snow said they had a gun like Penguin did. Snow then unveiled a Glock handgun, which they said their ex-boyfriend had left behind after moving out.According to court documents, Snow told police they and their friends played with the gun fairly often, believing it to be safe, as their ex-boyfriend said he had removed all the bullets in the magazine. While they usually put the gun back in its case after taking it out, they had been drinking heavily, and this time failed to do so. After a few hours of playing with the gun, one of Snow’s housemates approached them asking Snow to pretend to shoot them. Snow complied, believing the gun to be unloaded. It was at this point that Helen said, “Oh, do me.” (This is the only part of the official version of events that Susan disputes: “That is so not our Helen,” she says. “If she were still capable of speech, she would never have said that.”) Snow then placed the gun on the left side of her head.
The gun went off. Helen fell to the ground. Blood started seeping into the carpet, and Helen’s panicked friends ran to get something to stop the bleeding, settling on a large red-and-white teddy bear. Snow ran upstairs to get a towel while they waited for EMTs to arrive. (
Rolling Stoneattempted to reach out to the housemates named in the charging documents, but did not receive a response from most of them; one said they did not want to speak about the case until after it was adjudicated.) When Helen got to the hospital, she was placed on life support. The hospital showed Susan and Philip MRIs of her brain activity. “That was it,” Susan says. “There was just not much there.” When Susan was told that Helen had been shot, and that Snow had pulled the trigger, she was stunned. Helen had not been raised with guns, and just a few weeks before, Philip had asked Helen if Snow and their friends had kept any weapons inside the house. Helen had said no, though the witness statements later revealed that this was not the first time the inhabitants of the house had played with the gun.
Unbeknownst to Susan, Helen had signed an organ donor card, and the hospital asked if it could keep Helen on life support for a few days so it could find a recipient for their organs. The hospital wanted the family to wait three days; Susan said they could wait for exactly two. That was as much as the family could bear. “I was never gonna see her again. I wanted to just hold her hand,” Susan says. Two days after Helen was shot, with her mother singing her Beatles songs and show tunes at her bedside, Helen was taken off life support and pronounced dead at 5:18 p.m.
For months, no one outside of Helen’s small circle in Houston knew exactly how they had died. Their college friends found out via a short email from the Oberlin College communications team. “It felt like they had a formula for a dead kid,” says Hawk. “Like they had run the numbers and this is how you talk about dead children. It was like, ‘We regret to inform you that first-year Helen Hastings has died. She was a bright member of the community. This is what she wanted to study. OK, bye.’ ” (In response to questions about whether the college could have better supported students grieving Helen, a representative for Oberlin College tells
Rolling Stone:“In its communication with the campus community, the college provided resources for students to seek support through several offices, including professional psychologists and therapists on staff in the Counseling Center.”) Helen Rose Hastings with their mother, Susan.
Courtesy of the Hastings FamilyBecause the email did not mention the cause of death, and because Helen’s friends could not get in touch with her parents because Susan was not checking emails, everyone had assumed Helen had taken their own life. In the absence of a memorial service set up by the college, about six or seven of Helen’s friends trudged almost a half hour through the snow to a cemetery on the outskirts of campus, attempting to light some candles. They were instantly blown out.
It’s unclear how, exactly, the gun fired in the first place. One of Snow’s housemates told police that they saw Snow taking the clip out before they started playing with it, with Snow saying they did so “so no one gets hurt,” but did not know how the clip ended up back in. In their conversations with police, Snow said they did not believe they put the magazine back in the gun, but they may have done so without thinking about it because they were “really, really drunk.”
Some of Helen’s friends believe this version of events, that it was a tragic accident, the culmination of too much liquor and hubris over having successfully handled prop guns in the past. “It’s the absolute textbook gun-safety PSA story,” says Lace. “Most cosplayers do not use real guns whatsoever, and yet we know all the rules to pose with a fake one and have it look convincing. It was an accident that could’ve been avoided with 10 different steps.”
Others are more skeptical. “I don’t even know how to identify Snow as a single person because they had so many identities,” says Morgan, who dated Helen their senior year in high school. “Like, did Junko kill Helen? Should Junko, in Snow’s body, be allowed to be free, like outside of prison or in a mental facility?” Lace believes the truth lies somewhere in between: that it was a horrific accident, but not an unpreventable one.
“It was just a matter of time till someone got hurt,” Lace says of Snow. “It’s like the story of the scorpion and the frog. Snow is the scorpion. They’ve gotta hurt someone.” In July, while Hawk was homefrom college, a friend sent her one of Snow’s Instagram posts. Hawk had heard of Snow once or twice in passing — mostly that she was a high school friend of Helen’s, active in the cosplay community. She was shocked to see on Snow’s Instagram account that someone had commented that Snow had shot Helen.
Hawk and her friends, still believing Helen had died by suicide, dismissed it as a rumor from someone trying to stoke controversy in the community. Snow had just kept posting on social media, mere days after Helen had died — there was no way they were actually involved, Hawk believed. On Jan. 21, Snow had posted on TikTok: “I will be taking a hiatus, I’m unsure how long but I will keep you updated.” But as soon as Feb. 10, they had started posting again: “Hiatus is over! Except more mikan tomorrow and please interact,” referring to a cosplay of another
Danganropacharacter.“I kinda assumed if you [kill] someone, you have at least the courtesy to not keep posting,” says Hawk. “Especially with the kind of content they were making.” That kind of content, which would be obsessively scrutinized by TikTokers and vloggers after Snow’s court records surfaced in September, was essentially the same as Snow’s previous content: lip-sync videos that blurred the line between edgy and adorable, featuring Snow vamping around in combat boots, candy-colored wigs, and crop tops. There was some indication on their backup account that things were less upbeat than they appeared. “I should have known better. One way or another my luck always turns,” they wrote on Feb. 2 in a now-deleted post, less than two weeks after Helen was shot, attributing the caption to another character from
Danganronpa.“I shouldn’t allow anyone else in the crossfire.”But on their main account, it was business as usual for Snow. An Instagram post dated April 27, just three months after Helen died, featured Snow cosplaying as Ayano Aishi, the protagonist of the game
Yandere Simulator,wielding a baseball bat and staring threateningly into the camera, bloody handprints on her cheek and on the white backdrop behind her. “Updated Ayano cosplay! What do you think?” the cheery caption read.They also maintain an OnlyFans page where they charge $40 a month for premium content.
In one video that was frequently highlighted by other TikTok users, they used a popular audio that nonetheless feels inadvisable for someone facing manslaughter charges to post: “My insides are red, and yours are too/And the red on my face is matching you,” they sing, their hands twisting in ecstasy, a deranged grin on their face. “Goodness, you’re bleeding, what a wonderful feeling/You’re down and you’re pleading/My head is just reeling.” There are bloody handprints behind them, as if someone had unsuccessfully tried to claw the walls to escape their clutches.
Snow’s attorney denies that such content should be viewed as Snow boasting about their role in Hastings’ death, suggesting that there might be other motivations. “Whether this was their attempt to deal with the trauma on their own, I can’t say for certain,” he says. “But what we know for sure is they did not receive any psychological help or counseling for this incident.”
Snow also continued to collaborate with others in the community and attend cosplay-related events, including Anime Matsuri, the large Houston convention, in July, according to social media posts other users shared from the event. (Anime Matsuri did not respond to
Rolling Stone’s request for comment.) Lace alleges that the first night they were there, Snow got so inebriated that a policeman had to help them into an Uber; it wasn’t until months later that Lace learned that by Snow being drunk, she was violating the conditions of her bail. (Snow also was required by the court to wear an ankle monitor, which is visible in some of the videos on her backup TikTok account.)
In many respects, the content Snow made after Helen died isn’t exactly surprising. It’s like most of their previous videos: a half-hearted pantomime of psychosis that’s trying to teeter on the brink of edgy and adorable, complete with wide-eyed, frenetic facial expressions. But the knowledge that Snow had shot such content after taking their friend’s life, in the very same home where Helen died, repulsed many in the community.
“The fact that they were cosplaying this archetype, and after the manslaughter incident were trying to market themselves more using it, that’s what got so much backlash from the community,” says Nevermind. “It’s one thing to be edgy, it’s another thing to be edgy about someone losing their life.” There is no evidence that Snow ever explicitly referred to Helen’s death in their content, or overtly used it as a marketing tool. But the fact that they continued to lean into the
yanderearchetype after they allegedly committed manslaughter, says Nevermind, “is not only a tragedy, it reflects badly on all of us.” ♬ Lotta True Crime by penelope scott – SadieSnow has not yet formally entered a plea, and their next hearing is on Oct. 21; none of the other housemates who witnessed Hastings’ death have been charged. According to Mayr, Snow has struggled greatly trying to process the aftermath of the shooting, and they have not received any psychological counseling whatsoever in the past few months. Their family members did not even know anything about Hastings’ death or Snow’s involvement until last month, when the story broke in the media.
“The trauma led Snow to basically just shut down internally and not discuss this with anyone, except the people they lived with,” says Mayr. “They didn’t know how to deal with it.” He reiterates that Hastings’ death was a horrible accident: “Never at any point did my client think that this was a possibility of something that could happen. No idea whatsoever the gun was loaded. And they’ve been devastated their close friend has lost their life under these circumstances.”
For the most part, Susan believes this, and views whatever happened the night of Jan. 17 must have been a horrible accident. But she also harbors some doubts. “There was some time when these folks were at this house before the police got there. So whatever was gonna happen, they were gonna have their story together,” she says. To some degree, she holds Snow and their friends and their predilection for smudging the edges of reality culpable for what happened to Helen: “There’s plenty of people she could’ve gotten drunk and stoned with where it would have never gotten to the point of playing with a gun and putting it to somebody’s head.” But on the other hand, she says, “
it just doesn’t matter. Two lives were ruined. Helen’s was taken. And Snow — their life was ruined too.”If Snow is indeed a danger to the community, Susan says, “they should be going somewhere where they can’t hurt other people.” But she does not want to see Snow go to prison, nor does she harbor any ill will toward them. At this point, Susan is just trying to put the pieces of her life together, trying to make sense of how they’ll fit without Helen.
“At first, when you lose your only child, your big concern is, ‘How am I going to get through this?’ Putting day to day to day together in a way you can see yourself having a life,” she says. “And hoping there will be something positive, parts of it at least; and then there’s stuff that is unproductive, like being pissed off at a community. It’s not a good investment of my energy.”
To commemorate their life, Helen’s friends campaigned to have Oberlin plant a dogwood tree on the lawn of Burton, where Helen spent their first and only semester at college. It’s pink, the same color Helen had dyed their hair that semester. If they had lived to see the leaves change this year, they might have watched them slip off the tree, spending a lazy Sunday afternoon in their favorite swing chair.Read more: Rolling Stone »
shannonrwatts I’m speechless. I’ve seen this “community” and can absolutely understand how this happened. Rolling Stone used to be such a good magazine with amazing writers like Hunter Thompson and PJ O’Rourke. Now you report garbage like this. It’s over. She really played into the whole yandere thing…
Why do i keep seeing this same headline i don't give a shit
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