Houston Chronicle

June 27, 2001

eBay stops auction of address for Yates site

By JO ANN ZUŅIGA
Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle

The eBay Internet auction service briefly hosted bidding Tuesday on an offer to sell a World Wide Web address named for accused Houston child-killer Andrea Pia Yates, but eBay administrators quickly halted the auction.

The bidding for the Web address named AndreaPiaYates.com started at $500,000 and went up to $752,011, with six bidders, before it was pulled for violating a recent eBay policy against sale of "murderabilia" -- items associated with notorious crimes or convicts, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said.

He said the seller was attempting to associate the sale with the case of Yates, 36, who told police she drowned her five children in a bathtub in their Clear Lake home June 20.

The seller, Charles H. Ziegler III, a 43-year-old truck driver from Penndel, Pa., said he was at work when eBay booted his auction off its site.

"I was surprised by you telling me somebody actually made a bid," Ziegler said from his home Tuesday night. "I would have probably been wetting in my pants if somebody had made a bid like that. I also know that, even though if you (get) a bid at eBay, that always can't be trusted."

He also is trying to sell the domain name on another auction service known as Afternic.com, a domain name auction and exchange site. On that site, the minimum bid for AndreaPiaYates.com is set at $5,000. As of 10 p.m. Houston time, there were no offers.

Ziegler said he was only trying to use the Yates domain name to direct potential buyers to another auction in which he is seeking to sell BonnyLeeBakley.com. Bonny Lee Bakley is the slain wife of actor Robert Blake. Ziegler is seeking a minimum bid of $1 million for that site.

He said he has spent the last year and a half buying about 250 domain names. His hope is to sell them to companies trying to use the notorious or popular names to redirect Web users to their commercial sites. He said he has yet to make a dime on the venture.

Internet addresses are standardized by computers known as domain name servers. Some registered domain names have sold for millions of dollars because of their potential to attract Internet surfers.

The AndreaPiaYates.com sales offer originated in Philadelphia with a seller using the online name "bigzigs." Prospective bidders were directed to afternic.com, a site that sells registered domain names.

Under the description of AndreaPiaYates.com, it stated, "Houston Mother, of 5 dead kids. And PostpartumDefense.com. The names speak for them self (sic)! Please go to afternic.com for the sale! If you wish to buy it here, you can, but it will cost you! Payment by bank wire only!"

No one could be reached through a toll-free number provided on the afternic.com site.

Since May 17, eBay has banned auctions on items associated with "notorious individuals who have committed murderous crimes within the last 100 years," Pursglove said.

And a Texas law taking effect effect Sept. 1 permits the state to seize profits felons or their agents make from the sale of crime memorabilia.

Andy Kahan, director of the city of Houston's crime victims assistance office, who helped lobby for the new law, said he discovered the AndreaPiaYates.com auction when he ran an Internet search on the accused killer's name.

"I try to monitor it religiously or people try to get away with it," Kahan said.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle