AUBURN — Four area men have been arrested on charges of child solicitation after they allegedly responded to a Garrett Police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook.
Brandon Shirk, 26, of Garrett; Donald Stafford, 33, of Fremont; and Bryson Greer, 21, of Ashley, have been formally charged in DeKalb County courts. The fourth man, a Kendallville resident, is not yet facing a formal charge.
All four men were arrested between Aug. 1 and Aug. 13, according to DeKalb County Jail records.
“There’s a high volume of interest” in contacting young girls on Facebook, said Garrett Police Chief Roland McPherson.
The investigation began after a citizen told police he feared for his granddaughters, McPherson said. The man said one granddaughter started a Facebook account that became flooded by men wanting to become her friends.
Garrett Officer Michael Shutt recently completed training in how to use social media for drug investigations, McPherson said.
“When he was approached by the concerned citizen … he came up with the idea and ran with it on his own,” to use Facebook to investigate child solicitation, McPherson said. The chief called it “rather amazing how rapidly it all developed.”
McPherson said the lesson is: “If parents don’t monitor their children on social media, it could turn into bad things.”
He said the investigation has proved its point and will be wrapping up soon.
A police affidavit filed by Shutt says Stafford first contacted what he believed to be a 14-year-old girl’s Facebook account on Aug. 1. He made contact again Aug. 2 and asked the supposed girl to send him photos.
On the morning of Aug. 3, Stafford allegedly sent a photo showing his genitalia and arranged a meeting in Garrett, the court document says. Two police officers saw a pickup truck stop near the address Stafford was given for the fictitious girl. They learned that Stafford’s driver’s license was suspended and made a traffic stop.
The officers allegedly found that Stafford possessed a box of condoms he had purchased within the past hour. He allegedly told police he had driven from Fremont to “hang out” with the girl. He also allegedly said he had deleted the Facebook app from his cellphone while he was in his truck after the officers stopped him.
Stafford is facing charges of child solicitation, a Level 4 felony, and driving while suspended with a prior conviction, a Class A misdemeanor.
Shirk also allegedly first made contact with the fictitious 14-year-old girl on Facebook on Aug. 1. The next day, he allegedly asked if the girl wanted marijuana and expressed a desire to “hang out and use narcotics,” a police affidavit says.
On Aug. 4, Shirk allegedly suggested a meeting, and the following day, he arranged to meet at an address in Garrett he believed to be the girl’s residence, Shutt said.
When police met Shirk at the address, he allegedly possessed marijuana, a smoking pipe and two packages of condoms. Later, as he was being checked in at the DeKalb County Jail in Auburn, police allegedly found Shirk was attempting to conceal methamphetamine.
Shirk is facing charges of child solicitation, a Level 4 felony; possession of methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony; possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor; and a repeat sexual offender enhancement.
Court records show Shirk was convicted of sexual battery in a Noble County case in 2013.
Greer made contact with the investigation’s Facebook page on Aug. 9, an affidavit says. He allegedly used an alias that Shutt recognized from a previous case.
The affidavit says Greer made contact again Monday and sent photos of himself holding firearms, as well as three sexually explicit photos of unidentified people. He allegedly described sex acts he wanted to engage in with the supposed girl.
On Tuesday, Greer allegedly asked to meet with the girl, requested her address, said he would get a ride to her house with his mother and described her vehicle.
When police stopped a matching vehicle Tuesday at an address Shutt had given Greer, they found him in the passenger seat with his mother driving. He allegedly possessed a condom.
Greer is facing a charge of child solicitation, a Level 4 felony, and a habitual offender enhancement. Court records show he was sentenced June 10 in a DeKalb County court for residential entry, a crime committed in March. He also was sentenced in Noble County in February for possession of methamphetamine, an offense committed in 2018.
According to DeKalb County Jail records, David Rupert, 23, of Kendallville, was arrested Aug. 1 at 6:50 p.m. by the Garrett Police Department on a charge of child solicitation, a Level 4 felony. His arrest is being reviewed by the DeKalb County Prosecutor’s Office. No details of the investigation leading to that arrest are available.