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Louisiana man pleads guilty to kidnapping gay teen he met on Grindr in attempted murder scheme

Chance Seneca, 21, admitted that he tried to murder a teen he met on the gay dating app and planned to kill others until he was caught, government officials said.

A Louisiana man admitted to kidnapping a gay teenager he met on the LGBTQ dating app Grindr with the intention of murdering him and dismembering his body.

As part of a plea agreement, Chance Seneca, 21, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping related to the June 2020 incident, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. Seneca also acknowledged that he had intended to kill his victim, Holden White, who was then 18, "for the purpose of satisfying his homicidal urges." He added that he had planned to continue murdering others until he was caught or killed himself.

Although White survived, the grisly assault left him in a coma for three days. Within the same week of the assault on White, Seneca attempted to kidnap a different man and successfully kidnapped another, according to a separate statement from the FBI.

Holden White in the hospital shortly after his attack.
Holden White in the hospital shortly after his attack.Courtesy Holden White / Courtesy Holden White

“The facts surrounding the events that took place in this case are very disturbing,” said Brandon B. Brown, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. “It is nothing short of miraculous that the victims who endured the vicious attacks from this defendant survived. We will continue to fight to seek justice for victims who suffer at the hands of defendants such as this.”

White and Seneca met on Grindr in 2020 when they were both teenagers, White told The Acadiana Advocate last year. After speaking for about a month, the two decided to meet in person in late June 2020.

White told the local outlet that after rejecting Seneca's invitation to his new apartment, he was persuaded to have their first in-person meeting at Seneca's father’s house. After some initial small talk at the house, White said Seneca pulled him backward with a cord and choked him so severely that “all the blood vessels in my face ruptured” before passing out, he said.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is it,’” he told The Acadiana Advocate. “The last words I said to myself were just ‘stay calm.’ Over and over and over in my head I was just repeating to myself to stay calm.”

Holden White
Holden White.Courtesy Holden White

Seneca then called 911 and told the dispatcher that he had killed a man “in a self-described effort to be put into a mental institution,” according to an affidavit released last year. He was then arrested at the scene and charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Federal prosectors said Thursday that the statutory maximum for Seneca's kidnapping offense is life imprisonment. They added that Seneca faces additional criminal exposure if the sentencing court determines that he intentionally selected White because he is gay.

“The actions and intentions of the defendant in this case were shocking,” Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “The internet should be accessible and safe for all Americans, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will continue to identify and hold accountable anyone who uses online spaces as a means to terrorize or abuse others.”

Grindr, which was founded in 2009, has been criticized for safety and privacy concerns in recent years. The Louisiana case is one of several instances in which Grindr has been reported to have been used to target LGBTQ men around the world.

In one of the best-known cases, Stephen Port — the man dubbed “The Grindr Killer” — was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for drugging, raping and killing four men he met through the app. In 2018, Egyptian authorities and residents were widely reported to have used Grindr and other dating apps to entrap and persecute gay men. And last year, a Texas man was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for using the LGBTQ dating app to commit a series of robberies, carjackings and other crimes in the Dallas area in December 2017.

In its safety guidelines, Grindr advises users: “If you do choose to meet, we recommend you do so in public first, at a safe space like an LGBTQ+ friendly cafe, and be careful about what possessions you take with you ... Make sure a responsible person you trust knows who you’re meeting, where you’re going, and when you’re planning on coming back."

Grindr did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment regarding Seneca's guilty plea.

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