The leafy suburban streets of Lake Forest Park aren't the sort of place you think of when it comes to kids being lured by child molesters, but these days they don't need to be on the streets. The pedophiles are being invited right into children's bedrooms via smart phones.
“It's just more opportunity for these people to do bad things to kids,” said Det. Toney Matthews of the Lake Forest Park Police Department.
Opportunity didn't even need to knock at the family home when a 21-year-old man convinced a 12-year-old girl to sneak out her bedroom window and get in his car.
“He drove to the location, was communicating with her, asking for directions. He parked just a little bit away from the house, walked up to the bedroom. He actually helped her out of the window and drove her away,” said Matthews.
The 12-year-old reportedly told the man she was 14.
The two met on the iPhone app "Whisper," where people post personal confessions for others to read and comment on. What makes the app so dangerous, especially for vulnerable, attention seeking children, is that it allows people to search for others near their location. A screen grab taken by police from the girl’s device read like this:
Defendant: you close by?
Victim: Lake Forest Park
Defendant: Wanna cuddle?
Defendant: What's the furthest you want to go?
Victim: Not very far. I'm a virgin
They ended up at a Lynnwood hotel a short time later having sexual relations.
The saturation of social media in kids' lives is now such a concern, principals in the Northshore School District sent a letter to parents this week urging them to keep close tabs on their children’s on-line activities.
"Whisper. Already the name should cause you some alarm,” said Kimberlee Armstrong, principal at Kenmore Junior High School. “We need to know if a 14-year-old student who feels they can tell someone their deepest darkest secret, that they know that person could be someone waiting to attack.”
Police say Ronald Curtiss Peterson III confessed to the incident. He has been charged with luring and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. The victim told police the sex was consensual.
Despite the 12-year-old’s age, Peterson has not been charged with rape. A representative from the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office told KING 5 News that a “gray area” in the law kept them from pressing a rape charge. They are hoping to amend the current charges with the lesser included offense of third degree rape when the case goes to trial.