Crime

College student used Snapchat trying to lure 13-year-old Columbus boy into sex, police say

A 25-year-old Augusta, Ga., native who used Snapchat to try to entice a 13-year-old Columbus boy to have sex was arrested when he came here Saturday to meet the teen, a police detective said Monday.

Police Cpl. Mark Scruggs said the boy’s mother discovered her son’s Snapchat exchanges with Todd Matthew Jones and alerted authorities, who in reviewing the communications saw that Jones had sent the teen detailed instructions on how to prepare his body for anal sex.

Snapchat is a social-media system that quickly deletes exchanges so they’re not stored indefinitely for future inspection.

Detectives got the tip Saturday morning, when Jones was to travel to Columbus from Union City, Ga., where he’s in college, Scruggs said. Officers began to monitor the exchanges as Jones made the drive down.

Police arrested Jones when he arrived outside the family’s apartment about 9:45 a.m. and messaged that he was there, the detective said.

Jones waived his right to an attorney during questioning, and told investigators he had come here to meet the boy in October, when the two went to a local Walmart where Jones bought the teen an electronic cigarette, Scruggs said.

He said Jones had two cellphones he allowed police to inspect. One had a link to a dropbox that appeared to contain “a number of images and videos” depicting child pornography involving juveniles around age 13 or 14, Scruggs said.

Police have yet to fully explore the material, and will need warrants to gain additional evidence, Scruggs said: “There’s still a lot of things to be done.” The teen is to meet a counselor Tuesday for a forensic interview, he said.

Detectives charged Jones with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, and with the felonies of enticing a child for indecent purposes and violating Georgia’s “Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.”

The section of the latter law Jones is alleged to have broken states in part: “It shall be unlawful for any person intentionally or willfully to utilize a computer wireless service or Internet service, including, but not limited to, a local bulletin board service, Internet chat room, e-mail, instant messaging service, or other electronic device, to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child” for sex.

Judge Julius Hunter found probable cause to send the case to Muscogee Superior Court, and ordered Jones held without bond on the two felony charges. Scruggs told Hunter police believe Jones is a “flight risk” for fleeing justice if released from jail, because he does not live in Columbus and has no family connections here.

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