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Grooming: Misconduct of a Minor

Victim of Grooming

This past week I’m sure you heard of the 13-year-old girl who was abducted from Dallas, Texas; and was later discovered in a shed in the State of North Carolina. The girl was known to be a gamer by her mother and was a part of the Discord community. Discord is a gaming chat platform where some gamers meet in chat rooms to message and talk during their gameplay or they can also meet outside of the gameplay. The victim’s mother; Esthela, tracked her daughter’s online activity knowing she was a gamer and was in contact with people who were online on the Discord gaming chat platform. According to the victim’s mother, Esthela, she knew her daughter’s emails, usernames and passwords and was able to provide all this valuable information she had to law enforcement.

The 13-year-old girl was last seen on March 1, 2023 and Esthela and her husband reported their daughter as a runaway, but they never gave up on searching for their 13-year-old daughter. The first 24-48 hours are important after a child is reported missing, as the victim can be exposed to human traffickers and drug dealers and many other unfortunate circumstances.

During the investigation, the Greensboro Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) discovered the teen was communicating with her abductor and there were many chats consistent with grooming and enticement behaviors. The abductor convinced the 13-year-old girl to leave her home and meet with him. The Greensboro Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacted the Davison County Sheriff’s Department and the Sheriff’s Department was able to get the license plate number of the abductor’s vehicle, which was a truck and commenced the surveillance on the abductor’s truck. According to the Sheriff’s Department, they found video cameras in the area that captured the 13-year-old girl’s home and captured the suspect’s vehicle. The Sheriff’s Department was then led to finding the abductor’s truck that was registered to a Davison County address. After they stopped the truck from leaving the address, they were able to locate the 13-year-old girl. The 13-year-old girl was found 1,000 miles from home in Lexington, North Carolina. The Davison County sheriff, Richie Simmons, stated that Greensboro Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were able to find her alone in a shed at a home located at Lynwood Southmont Road on Friday, March 10, 2023. The 13-year-old girl was found in a shed that was locked from the outside. According to the emergency response team, they said the 13-year-old girl “did not appear to have any physical injuries.”

The 13-year-old girl was given medical attention at a local hospital before they reunited her with her family. The girl’s mother, Esthela, told the local news station her daughter had been missing since March 1, 2023 and was so happy to see her again.

The owners of the property were shocked as they had no idea the 13-year-old girl was in their shed. The owner of the property rented the shed to the abductor and could not believe that unbeknownst to her, there was a child predator in her shed. According to the property owner, the man who abducted the 13-year-old girl had been living in the shed for about two years and was friends with her son. She stated she “just took him in and helped him out” but was not involved with whatever he is or was doing because she did not know he was that kind of person.

The abductor was charged with a felony of child abduction, restraint of a minor child and human trafficking. He was then charged with two counts of rape of a minor child under the age of 15 years old and statutory sexual offense with a child under the age of 15 years old. The abductor was also charged with indecent liberties with a minor child. The abductor was given a bond of 1.25 million dollars and is currently sitting in the Davison County jail. If convicted, he is facing the possibility of life in prison without parole.

Gaming and the Relationships they Create

Jennifer Hohman, who is the founder of the Fight for Us organization, stated that children are creating solid relationships and friendships with people online and parents have to take extra precautions. She also states to never give up looking for your child and recommends you go to both law enforcement and also have someone privately look for your child. Having a professional on your side can help you track their internet protocol, also known as IP addresses, so you can discover their digital world. Jennifer Hohman also reminds parents, even if their child tells them “they are friends”, please remember he or she is not your child’s friend unless the parents have seen that “friend” in person and are able to make their own judgment of that person.

In the following, I will break down each of the abductor’s charges and the penalties that can be given.

What is Grooming?

Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person. In order to manipulate, extort and abuse them. Children and young adults who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or even trafficked. Grooming can take place over a short period or long period of time, from weeks to months to even years. Groomers can be anyone and any age, race or gender; they may also build a relationship with the young adult’s friends or family to make them seem trustworthy.

When a groomer is targeting young children and adults online, they may send false photos of someone younger. This is to gain the trust of the child or young adult, as they appear to be more of a peer to them. Groomers spend time online to learn the interests of young children and adults to understand how best to approach them. Groomers might also try to isolate your children from their friends and family, making them feel dependent on them and giving the groomer power and control over them. They can resort to guilt-tripping, shaming and even blackmailing them to frighten and intimidate them.

Children and young adults are vulnerable on social media platforms, emails, text messages apps like WhatsApp and even in-game chat and forums like the Xbox chat app.

Felonies and their Degree

In this case, it is important to understand the different felony degrees and what the punishment is for each of them. A felony of the first degree, is the most severe charge with imprisonment of 5-99 years, with fines up to $10,000. Then there is a second-degree felony, which is imprisonment of 2-20 years, with fines up to $10,000. There is a third-degree felony which consists of 2-10 years of imprisonment, in addition to a fine of up to $10,000.

Unlawful Restraint Sec. 20.02

A person commits this offense if they intentionally and knowingly restrain another person. This is considered a state jail felony, as the child was under 17 years of age, making her a minor. It can escalate to a felony of the third-degree if there is a substantial risk of bodily injury.

Kidnapping Sec. 20.03

A person commits this offense if they intentionally or knowingly abduct another person. This is classified as a felony of the third degree, but the abductor could also be charged with aggravated kidnapping Sec. 20.04. Aggravated kidnapping goes on to include abducting someone with the intent to inflict bodily injury on them or violate or abuse them sexually. This is considered a felony of the first degree and is really severe.

Trafficking of Persons Sec. 20A.02

A person commits this offense if the person knowingly: trafficked another person with the intent that the trafficked person engages in forced labor, causes the trafficked person to engage in the conduct of prostitution, promotion of prostitution or promotion of online prostitution through force, fraud or coercion to participate. In the case of the abductor in question, he violated the section that included trafficking of a minor child by any means and causes the minor child to engage in or become a victim of sexual assault or aggravated assault. And he violated the section on indecency with a minor child. This is considered a felony of the first degree.

Indecency with a Child

Indecency with a minor child has its section in the Penal Code as Sec. 21.1. This offense is committed when the child is younger than 17 years old and the person engages in sexual contact with them. This is a felony of the second degree.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge of any kind, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know who is facing these criminal charges, as they can hold severe consequences, including life in prison. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain to you the result of the charges and guide you in the best possible way.

We offer complimentary consultations at your convenience, via Zoom, on the phone or in-person and we will provide you with as much advice and information so you can have the best possible result in your case. Call us Today at 281-810-9760.

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