Cocke County teen targeted by online predator

Cocke County teen targeted by online predator

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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - Investigators in Cocke County are unraveling an online relationship between a 16-year-old girl and a man from Georgia.

They were alerted when the man called and told school officials the teen wanted to blow up Cocke County High School.

But as it turns out, there is much more to the story.

Cocke County sheriff's investigators said the online relationship between the female teen and the suspect started in March.

They said when she wanted to break off the relationship, the man became angry, and that is when school officials received several calls Wednesday from the man saying this student wanted to blow up the high school.

The school was not evacuated.

"The information we gathered, we didn't see any need to," said Cocke County Sheriff Det. Kevin Benton. "There was no real threat."

Investigators spoke to the suspect on the phone.

He gave them several false statements including that he was an United States Army master sergeant, that he was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and that his job in the military was to monitor chat rooms for pedophiles.

They feel the suspect is himself a pedophile because they found nude photos he sent the teen on her cell phone, and the teen also had taken nude photos of herself.

Investigators said it was not the first time a teen has had a relationship online with on older man in the county, and say parents need to be careful and teach their children the dangers of being online.

"We are constantly reminding students of the dangers of talking to folks online, in chat rooms, that you really don't know," said Cocke County Director of Schools Manney Moore.

The sheriff's department has now turned this case over to federal authorities since it crosses state lines.

They say it should be very easy to locate the man, and he could face several charges including impersonating a military official, filing a false police report, and child pornography.

The teen will not be facing any charges.

Cocke County sheriff's investigators say they will wait until federal officials are done working the case to see if they will file any charges locally.

About a month ago, officers started to do educational programs at Cocke County High School to warn teens about the dangers of meeting people online.

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