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Ashe warns parents of chat rooms
Jul 12, 2006 12:00 am
July 1, 2006 – Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe warned parents and young adults Friday about the dangers of chatting online with strangers following the arrest of a suspected pedophile who accused of using a Web site to solicit sex from a minor.
Bryon Lee Lowery of Coshocton, Ohio, was arrested earlier this week on charges stemming from his "sexually explicit plans" for a female he believed was a 14-year-old girl. The girl, however, was a Wilson County detective posing as a teen during an investigation of the Web site, RateMyBody.com.
During the investigation, Detective Pat Hamblin's profile as a minor was hit with several e-mails including a few suspected predators, Ashe explained Friday. The ease of men connecting with his detective disguised as a minor caused a major concern for the sheriff, who issued a warning to all who use RateMyBody.com or similar sites.
"I think the thing that caught me off guard was how easy it was" for men to connect with minors, Ashe said. " … And if one site goes down and another comes up."
To protect teenagers and children from potential predators, Ashe said parents should keep a close eye on the Web sites and chat rooms their children visit.
"Children could be in danger," he said, noting parents should check their children's computer and its usage. "They are divulging too much information to sight unseen people."
The sheriff explained the children are not the only ones in dangers when logging online to talk.
"When they give out their addresses, they could put family in danger," Ashe said. "Young people are giving out information about their siblings and parents and grandparents. … They are divulging stuff that could cost them their lives."
He also cautioned young adults using RateMyBody.com, which offers free online dating, hot or not ratings, dating and personals.
"People need to be careful, because it's a bogus site," Ashe said. "It may not be the person you think you are talking to."
For example, chatters may believe they are talking to an 18-year-old male, but in reality they may be talking to a 60-year-old serial killer.
"Or instead of meeting an 18-year-old female, they could be meeting a grandma," Ashe said.
Luckily, the federal government is catching onto sites such as RateMyBody.com thanks to investigations started by Hamblin. The federal government has already contacted the local detective about the case which lead to Lowery's arrest in Ohio earlier this week.
Hamblin started her investigation into the Web site after learning about Wilson Countians potentially using the site as a means to solicit minors. After informing the sheriff, who encouraged her probe, the detective created a "bogus" profile on the Web site and was immediately contacted by locals to internationals.
"We started getting hounded from people in Holland to people in Mt. Juliet and Lebanon," the sheriff said Friday. "People began to coerce her and make contact with our undercover operator."
But when a conversation with an 18-year-old Ohio man appeared to be turning dangerous, Hamblin contact the local authorities.
"Pat felt like through her experience, this could be a serious predator," Ashe said.
Upon contacting Ohio authorities, the detecitve learned Lowery was a familiar face to police.
"They said he is dangerous," Ashe said. "They felt the urgency to serve search warrant and take him down."
Lowery was arrested in his Coshocton, Ohio, home Wednesday while he was chatting online with Hamblin. Authorities seized the suspect's computer, which will be forensically tested for the presence of child pornography, authorities said.
Lowery was charged with importuning a felony of the fifth degree, according to the Ohio arrest warrant. Ashe believes the crime is the same charge of sexual solicitation of a minor.
Ashe pointed out Hamblin is still investigating the Web site for potential predators stationed locally. But the investigation is set up at a neutral location.
Other information resulting from Hamblin's probe will eventually be handed over to the federal government.
"We are just building information and compounding data and passing it onto the federal government," Ashe said. "It's just too big for us to do, especially with hits from Holland and international places."
Night News Editor J.K. Devine can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 46 or by e-mail email@example.com.