This woman did not murder her husband — the photo has been taken out of context

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Thousands of Facebook users in Africa have shared posts claiming a woman served years in jail for murdering her husband, only for him to be found alive and living with another woman. Upon discovering this, the woman apparently shot her husband dead “for real this time”. While the tale has sparked debate online, the photo accompanying the posts has been taken out of context. It shows an American woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby. 

Dozens of Facebook posts share the same text about the murdered husband, which is headlined “CRIME AND JUDGMENT!” 

The posts recount the dramatic story, before asking, “As a judge, will you look at the case as a fresh murder or will you look at it as a crime she already served the term?” 

The text does not name the woman, nor does it say in which country the murder is supposed to have happened. Each of the posts is accompanied by the same photograph of a woman in handcuffs, flanked by two police officers.

A Facebook post sharing the woman's photo alongside the story of the murdered husband, as seen in a screenshot taken on December 19, 2019

The story has been shared more than 6,000 times in a Nigerian Facebook post which we’ve archived here, as well as by users in Malawi, Zambia and elsewhere. The criminal justice dilemma presented by the story proved to be a conversation starter, generating long debates underneath various posts. 

The story of the murdered husband has generated long debates online

Most of the posts began spreading in December 2019, although we found a variant of the story dating back to September. 

Who is the woman in the photo? 

A reverse image search quickly led us to news stories about Shauna Mahoney, a woman from Niagara Falls in the US state of New York. In 2008, Mahoney was handed a 10-year jail sentence for manslaughter after smothering her 17-month-old son.

The photo which appears in 2019 Facebook posts about the murdered husband had previously appeared in news reports about Mahoney, as seen in this article published by a local newspaper, the Niagara Gazette, ahead of the trial, on October 4, 2007. This article may be unavailable to readers in Europe under data protection legislation, but we’ve included a screenshot here.

The photo as seen in a 2007 news report about Shauna Mahoney

Mahoney is also pictured in a different report by the newspaper about the trial, published seven months later.

Another article in the Niagara Gazette, showing Mahoney in May 2008

As for the story of the murdered husband, it’s unclear whether it has any basis in fact. AFP ran numerous online searches and was unable to find reports of such a case. 

This isn’t the first time a photo has been used out of context alongside an apocryphal tale on Facebook. We previously wrote about viral posts that described the reflections of a death row inmate, alongside a photo of a man who was never sentenced to death.