Rhonda K. Baughman ruminates on a murdered coed with a secret sideline that made her more “newsworthy.”
When Emily Sander, 18, disappeared, few of her classmates at Butler Community College in Kansas noticed. When her body was found six days later, 50 miles from the El Dorado campus, it got minor attention in local papers. When it was revealed the quiet brunette had been living a secret life as an Internet model named Zoey Zane, Emily Sander became good news. Sexy news.
“PORN STAR MURDERED!” screamed Chicken Little headlines.
“SEE DEAD PORN STAR PUSSY!” squawked random blogger trolls.
Much of Zoey Zane’s personal information and photography have been removed from the Internet, but this hasn’t entirely stopped the necrophile crowd from creeping in. No doubt, postmortem hits for Zoey Zane have exceeded those when Sander was alive. Odd, one might think, for someone deemed a porn queen or star on the basis of a few scant details of her foray into online nude modeling. But then equally odd were the words queen and star. Uh, what were all those movie titles again? Emily Sander was neither royalty of adult entertainment, nor, truthfully, was her Internet site naughty enough to warrant star status.
Notably, the facts of this case seem entirely unrelated to Sander’s extracurricular endeavors. One night, Sander met Israel Mireles, 24, at a bar in El Dorado. They left together, without Mireles’s very pregnant 16-year-old girlfriend, Victoria Martens. Six days later, Sander’s body was found. Mireles was charged with capital murder, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy, the clues being a missing bedspread and a copious amount of blood in his motel room. The suspect’s flight to Mexico caused a stink: The Federales insisted the Yanquis not seek the death penalty. U.S. authorities promised the worst they’d demand would be life in prison.
Neither the public nor Sander’s classmates have details of her death, but it has been stated that nude modeling had no connection to her fate. In fact, the only reason anyone outside Kansas even heard about her demise was because of the young woman’s cyberspace activity. It’s only Emily Sander’s risqué alter ego that has given the case national attention.
Welcome to the erratic pulse beat of America’s Heartland—Sander in Kansas, myself in Ohio, both of us barely blips on radar screens, average students in the middle of nowhere: free spirits, the invisible class, women in transition. Sander was one of thousands of anonymous faces and bodies floating in the ether. She may have dreamed of parlaying her sideline into something else. Who knows? To be human is to dream. I can tell you, as both a student and instructor, all students have some kind of dream; otherwise we wouldn’t be students.
Reactions to the story at my school, Antioch University McGregor, and at the one where I teach remain as nonchalant now as at the story’s initial break in November 2007. It’s business as usual. People love good tragedy, enjoy hashing particulars or making some up, especially if bare breasts and a flash of ass are involved. Get the story, report the facts, quickly move on to the next one.
At least in the headline of reporter Roxana Hegeman’s AP article, the word student preceded porn star. Nothing I read mentioned that Sander also worked as a secretary. In the U.S. we tend to let our vocations define us. Some of us forget that the actual person is a separate entity from his or her job description.
What 18-year-old—student or otherwise—doesn’t need extra money? Moreover, Sander’s cheeky poses, bikinis, nudity and bright smile hardly constitute porn. The word porn itself is hysterically relative anyway. Whether or not hard-core exposure of Sander as Zoey Zane ever existed isn’t really important.
An overused quote remains the only evidence regarding Sander’s personal life: “She enjoyed it,” recalled Nikki Watson, one of her friends at Butler Community College. “She was a young teenage girl, and she wanted to be in the movies and enjoyed movies. She needed the extra money. Nobody in El Dorado knew besides her close friends.”
Apparently. And Emily Sander is no longer here to tell us about it.
Rhonda K. Baughman, a graduate of Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio, now attends Chicago’s Argosy University and teaches creative writing at Brown Mackie College. She is also an online movie critic and poetess whose My Transvestite: A Novella of Love & Death, Porn & Revolution is soon to be rereleased by B&R Publications.
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