28-year-old Richard Calvin Whitehead of Pennsylvania, intended to lure a 12-year-old girl he contacted on Facebook to an abandoned bunker in a densely wooded area and sexually assault her, authorities alleged. Undercover detectives stationed at Lenape Park apprehended Whitehead as he arrived for his intended meeting with the underage girl, according to court documents cited by The Morning Call.
Whitehead has been charged with attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a child, attempted statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact or communication with a minor, attempted aggravated indecent assault, corruption of a minor, and related offenses in connection with alleged incidents that occurred between May 9, 2011 and May 24, 2011.
"This case provides a concrete example of how parents need to be vigilant about their children’s activities online and using technology," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said in a statement announcing the arrest, according to Delco Times. "There are, unfortunately, predators in the world who seek to hurt kids. I have no doubt a horrific crime was prevented by the quick response from law enforcement."
Ferman commended the child for telling an adult about the inappropriate communications and parents for immediately contacting police. An investigation began on May 17, 2011 when a woman contacted township police to report that a man claiming to be "Kevin Smith" contacted her daughter on Facebook to "hang out" with her. Here are the initial messages on Facebook, according to a transcript cited by Philly:
"Hi wats up ur cute," Whitehead started with. "Thanks I don't know what you look like," the girl replied. "Heres my number txt me and I'll send u a pic," the man wrote, including his cellphone number.
The girl did not know a Kevin Smith (nor a Richard Whitehead), and did not initiate the online contact, authorities alleged. A 12-year-old friend of the girl, however, posted her cell phone number on the first girl's Facebook Wall and soon began hearing from the man as well. Thankfully, detectives were able to trace the communications to Whitehead.
During the investigation, further text messages were exchanged in the presence of a county detective Drew Marino. On May 23, the second girl initiated a text conversation with the man at the direction of Marino. Whitehead allegedly texted the girl to go to Lenape Park the following day to "an abandoned old house on the path," for the purpose of a sexual encounter. He also allegedly sent the underage girl a photo of his genitals. At 4:00 PM on May 24, detectives stationed themselves at the park's entrance and observed Whitehead as he texted the 12-year-old girl asking her if she was coming, before moving in to take him into custody.
Whitehead is being held in the county jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bail, and faces a preliminary hearing on the charges on June 2, 2011 before District Court Judge Albert Augustine. If he makes bail, he can have no contact with minors, and if convicted of all the charges, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 90 to 180 years in prison.
Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities require users of the social network to be at least 13 years old (and even older, in some jurisdictions). Millions of preteens use the service anyway: some get permission from their parents to create an account while others lie about their age to get past sign-up restrictions. Last month, it was estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age.