Targeting a minor online

BARTOW — A California man is in custody and awaiting extradition to Polk County, charged with sending sexually explicit photos to a 12-year-old girl. The suspect’s use of the social media site SnapChat gave the Polk County Sheriff’s Office all the evidence they needed to secure an arrest.

Eduardo Martinez, 24, was taken into custody in California and is now facing four counts of Transmitting Harmful Material to a Minor and eight counts of Using a Computer to Lure a Child, both felonies.

“I can’t say this often enough: Predators are lurking online and on apps looking for children to groom for sex,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “This is why it is so important for parents to make it their business to check their child’s electronic devices often.”

That’s exactly what led to this arrest.

Who Discovered The Sexual Photos?

This case started in May, when the mother of the 12-year-old girl, who lives in Polk County, reported to her child’s school resource deputy that she had discovered nude and sexually explicit photos and videos on her daughter’s cell phone. She also found sexually explicit SnapChat messages between her daughter and a man she didn’t know. The school resource deputy reported this to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Computer Crimes Unit.

“Detectives conducted a forensic search of the victim’s phone and discovered a pattern of sexual grooming, including SnapChat messages where the suspect asked the victim to send him images and videos of her performing sexually exploitative acts, to which the victim complied,” noted Alicia Manautou, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case. “Detectives also found a conversation between the suspect and the victim where the suspect told the victim that he wanted to get her pregnant.”

According to Manautou, the 12-year-old girl responded that she was 15 years old and didn’t want to get pregnant, and Martinez responded “Idc you are a baby. I want a baby.”

Detectives also found numerous text messages where the girl referred to the older man as Eduardo, and they found “a nude photo of an adult male and a photo of a Hispanic male with dark short hair,” Manautou noted. The suspect was eventually identified as Eduardo Martinez of Red Bluff, Calif. Polk County detectives obtained a warrant that was sent to the Red Bluff Police Department, which assisted in arresting Martinez.

What Did The Suspect Say To Detectives?

According to Polk detectives, Martinez admitted to Red Bluff detectives he sent the victim sexually explicit videos and images, and also acknowledged that there would be “hundreds” of sexually explicit images and videos of the 12-year-old on his phone. Detectives also found videos and images of other underage girls that Martinez had been communicating with on his phone.

“He told detectives that he moved to Red Bluff from Oregon in January of this year for a ‘fresh start,.’ ” Manautou said.

Martinez was booked into the Tehama County Jail in California and is being held with no bond. He will be extradited to Polk County at a later date.

Sheriff Judd praised the mother for keeping a careful watch over her child’s cell phone.

“Because this mother checked her daughter’s phone and told law enforcement, a predator was stopped before something worse could happen,” the sheriff noted. “As far as this sexually deviant creep in California, he will be held accountable for his despicable behavior.”

This investigation is on-going.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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