3 accused of targeting children for sex
An 18-year-old man first saw the 11-year-old girl on a social media site. He sent her friend requests. Eventually he sent her pornographic images he had taken of himself, and later asked her to send nude pictures of herself, investigators say. He suggested the two hang out.
When Crystal Brookshire, the girl's mother, found out she contacted the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, which suggested arranging an 8:30 p.m. meeting at the Skylite Skating Rink on Cajah's Mountain Road in Hudson.
"I told her to keep talking to him like you normally would because we had already taken it to the cops," Brookshire said.
A man showed up about 8:15 and started to get out of the car, but he saw a patrol car, got back in his car and tried to drive away. The patrol car was only one of four there -- two marked and two unmarked -- and officers chased after him and stopped his car about a half mile down the road.
Hunter McNeil of Rover Road in Granite Falls was charged Feb. 19 with felony soliciting a child under age 16 by computer for purposes of commiting a sex act and disseminating pornography to a minor, also a felony. He also was charged with felony fleeing to elude arrest, aggressive driving, hit and run, leaving the scene of property damage and resisting an officer.
He was the second of three men arrested in recent weeks and accused of using social media to try to have sex with minors. Officials already had created false online profiles to use in hopes of catching sexual predators, but in this case they got lucky, said Lt. Aaron Barlowe of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office. "This time the parents came to us."
The sheriff's office is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Detective Shelly Hartley said her office fields complaints every day from parents saying their children are being sent inappropriate photos or receiving sexual texts.
"They're coming from all social media sites," Hartley said. "We're getting overwhelmed. We really have no choice but to be pro-active in these kinds of cases."
The sheriff's office said that Ronnie Logan Fisher, 40, of North Mulberry Street in Statesville was the first person arrested after setting up a meeting with one of the fake children that investigators had created online. The meeting was set for Feb. 7 at Gamewell Park, not far from the sheriff's office, and two investigators hid in port-a-johns there for two hours. Fisher was charged with felony solicitation by computer. His bond was set at $100,000 secured bond.
On Wednesday, Ethan Cole Davis, 22, of Lake Acres in Hickory became the latest arrested in the online sting and accused of interacting with an officer posing as a young girl. Investigators say that twice he agreed to meet the girl, but both times he backed out. Investigators arrested him at his job at a screenprinting business in Rutherford College on a felony charge of solicitation of a child by computer, disseminating obscene material to a minor under age 16.
The sheriff's office encourages parents to also be pro-active with the Internet activities of their children.
"Monitor your child's activities while they are online, and know the passwords to their e-mails and social media acccounts," Barlowe said. "Get familiar with their contact lists, and examine their data stored on phones and their personal computers, such as text messages or photos. Limit the time and amount of personal information they place on their social media profiles."