Update, March 15, 2018: Monalisa Perez was to 90 days in jail for the accidental shooting of her boyfriend as part of a YouTube stunt, to be served in 10-day stints over the next three years.
After Monalisa Perez accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend, Pedro Ruiz, while recording a stunt for their new YouTube channel, hand-wringers came out on social media to deride the young couple for being airheaded fame seekers. But however stupid it is to aim a loaded gun at a human being (it's unfathomably stupid), it's also true that the ludicrous amount of money viral videos can earn can convince people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. Dangerous stunts have been elevating ordinary people to preposterous heights of fame since Evel Knievel and Jackass, but YouTube has created a sort of lottery system in which ever-higher rewards can go to anyone at all. Last year, YouTube prankster Roman Atwood pulled in $8 million. This is extremely dangerous. Here's why.
Nineteen-year–old Monalisa Perez announces on Facebook that she and her boyfriend, 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz, are expecting their second child.
Perez posts on Facebook: "Being an adult is hard . . . especially when you have no idea what you want to do with you life or even your purpose all I know is I want to be successful for my kids, take it day by day! "
Perez posts on Facebook: ". . . I bet I'll achieve more goals . . . in the next few months, that Will take a lifetime for some people!" Her boyfriend responds with a series of supportive emojis, to which she replies, "Baby, call me when you can news about lowering our bills lmao"
The first video uploaded to La MonaLisa on YouTube, "Staying at a HAUNTED HOTEL!!" is pretty tame: Ruiz climbs some vines in the woods and the family goes swimming.
The couple continues uploading videos every two or three days, with the pranks getting more serious: Today, Perez hides an entire Carolina Reaper pepper in her boyfriend's sandwich, and he ends up in bed with an upset stomach.
June 26, 11:49 a.m.
In "DOING SCARY STUNTS AT THE FAIR, PART I," Perez asks Ruiz to imagine having 300,000 followers. "The bigger we get, I'll be throwing parties," he says.
June 26, 6 p.m.
Perez tweets: "Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever HIS idea not MINE "
June 26, evening
Ruiz holds a 1.5-inch-thick encyclopedia in front of his chest, and Perez aims a .50-caliber gold Desert Eagle pistol at it from a foot away. The bullet tears through the book, striking Ruiz in the chest. Paramedics attempt CPR, but Ruiz dies at the scene. Perez is placed under arrest.
After initially charging Perez with reckless discharge of a firearm for attempting the stunt, the Norman County court system upgrades her charge to second-degree manslaughter. She is released on just $7,000 bail, under the condition that she wear a GPS monitor and have no access to firearms.
According to analytics company Socialblade.com, traffic at La MonaLisa shoots up. At one point, the channel gets 1.7 million new video views in just 24 hours. The site estimates the channel's potential earnings on this single day to be between $416 and $6,700. As of press time, the channel remains functional, with nearly 21,000 subscribers.
This story appears in the October 2017 issue.