Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Online chats lead to arrest in rape of Bellevue teen


BELLEVUE, Wash. - Detectives say online chats proved to be key evidence in a case of a Bellevue teen who was raped four times.

The path to the crime began online, when the 16-year-old victim began chatting with the 17-year-old suspects on MySpace.com.

After a while, she thought they'd become friends, and they convinced her to meet them.

They provided her with alcohol, according to detectives, and she consumed a great deal of it in a short amount of time, to the point where she was unable to make any decisions or resist.

That's when the boys pulled their car into a dark parking lot in Bellevue, the victim - and later one of the suspects - told police.

"She was there raped by all four males in the back of the car they were riding in," said Greg Grannis, spokesperson for the Bellevue Police Department.

The suspects might have gotten away with it, but police served a search warrant on the suspects' MySpace pages. Police discovered the chat logs, which then led to the four arrests.

The victim was able to point police to the suspects' MySpace pages, where court documents say they "callously bragged about the assault," and wrote that they "feared (the victim) would contact the police and said they would kill her if she did."

"Not only did they talk about the crime they committed, but they thought that it had worked so well, that they might try it again with another victim," Grannis said.

Allan Kush, of the Internet safety group Wiredsafety.org, is not surprised by the case. He describes a certain naiveté among young online users.

"Because they're very trusting and they think they click, you know, that type of thing," he said. "But what ends up happening are things they never expected or dreamt of."

He says parents must monitor their child's online activities and make it clear that it's never OK to meet privately with someone they've met online.

All four suspects are 17 years old, and have been charged as juveniles.

However, based on the seriousness of the crime, the King County prosecutor may decide to charge them as adults instead.

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