Following the release in March of a police interview transcript obtained by The Murder Sheet podcast that revealed Kegan Kline of Peru, Indiana, allegedly utilized the social media platform Snapchat to obtain sexually explicit photos of underage girls, multiple offenders in the intervening months have been convicted in Indiana of using Snapchat and Facebook to prey upon underage victims.
According to WTHR, Kegan Kline currently sits in jail facing 30 charges involving child pornography and child exploitation after admitting “to creating the social media profile ‘anthony_shots’ to meet underage girls and receive sexually explicit photos.” Kline is also alleged to have been one of the last to communicate with Liberty German prior to her murder on February 13, 2017.
Since these revelations, multiple offenders have been prosecuted and convicted in Indiana for soliciting sexual abuse material from underage victims. However, even more disturbing, some offenders have used these platforms to meet with victims for the purpose of committing acts of abuse. According to a May 5, 2022 Department of Justice, Southern District of Indiana press release:
“Gerald Hoye, 43, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison following his guilty plea to sexual exploitation of a child.
“According to court documents, agents with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that sexually explicit images of a child had been sent from a child’s Facebook account to an adult’s Facebook account. Further information received from NCMEC showed sexually explicit conversations were taking place through Facebook Messenger between the child and the adult.
“Law enforcement officers determined the adult was Hoye, a then-41-year-old truck driver living in Indianapolis. The child victim lived in another state and was under 16 years old. Hoye coerced and manipulated the child by offering her money in exchange for sexually explicit photos and videos. In September of 2019, Hoye traveled to the victim’s home and transported her to another state, where he engaged in illegal sexual conduct with the child.”
For all its sophisticated algorithms, Facebook relies on the NCMEC to detect and identify the exploitation of a child over its own messaging app. These interactions escalated to the point where “Hoye traveled to the victim’s home and transported her to another state, where he engaged in illegal sexual conduct with the child.” That is extremely terrifying. How is it the case that Facebook can detect alleged misinformation on its platform and shut that down, but is apparently clueless when a felony is taking place?
Around the time the public was learning of Kegan Kline’s horrific exploits, another man was convicted in the Southern District of Indiana for committing similar offenses via Snapchat. According to a March 17, 2022 DOJ press release:
“Matthew O. Walker, 28, of Augusta, Georgia, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to the sexual exploitation of a child.
“According to court documents, Walker sexually exploited 3 Indiana children and 2 children from South Carolina. Walker first came to the attention of federal authorities in the fall of 2019, when Walker had engaged in sexually explicit Snapchat communications with two minor boys in the Southern District of Indiana. Walker misrepresented himself on Snapchat as a teenage girl, persuading minors to create and send him images and videos of themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Walker threatened the minors that he would distribute these images and videos of these minors to their respective families if they did not do as he instructed.
“Federal investigators discovered that Walker was living in Georgia. With assistance from law enforcement there, a search warrant was executed at Walker’s residence. Evidence was seized and Walker admitted to communication with multiple underage boys online. Walker also admitted to receiving child sexual abuse material through Snapchat and other social media platforms. Walker pled guilty to sexual exploitation of a child in a plea that incorporated his criminal conduct against three Indiana children and others.”
Snapchat was also the social media platform of choice for a Bartholomew County, Indiana man who pled guilty to sexually exploiting children in Indiana and California and received over 27 years in federal prison. According to a February 18, 2022 DOJ press release:
“According to court documents, Jordan Fields, 21, of Columbus, Indiana, sexually exploited children in Indiana and California, and admitted to other acts of exploitation against unknown minors. Fields first came to the attention of federal authorities in the fall of 2020, when law enforcement in California notified authorities in Indiana that Fields had engaged in sexually explicit Snapchat communications with a 13-year-old boy in California.
“The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation and executed a search warrant at Fields’ home on Nov. 13, 2020. Fields was initially arrested on state charges of child solicitation and possession of child pornography. A team from the Indiana State Police, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI reviewed evidence seized from Fields’ home, and Fields was arrested on federal sexual exploitation charges in March of 2021.
“Fields admitted to communication with multiple underage boys online and admitted to receiving child sexual abuse material through Snapchat and Omegle. Fields pled guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a child for his victimization of three southern Indiana children.”
Another Indianapolis man was convicted in May after it was discovered that he had used Facebook to sexually exploit a child. Per the Department of Justice:
“Ryan Niendorf, 39, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison following his guilty plea to sexual exploitation of a child and attempted sexual exploitation of a child.
“According to court documents, in May 2021, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that an adult’s Facebook account had been used to engage in sexually explicit communication with a child’s Facebook account. Law enforcement officers determined the adult was Niendorf, a semi-truck driver living in Indianapolis, and police were able to locate the child. Based on forensic evidence found in Niendorf’s account, police arrested Niendorf. Further investigation showed Niendorf persuaded two minors, both less than 16 years of age, to produce sexually explicit videos.”
Based on the information that has surfaced regarding the activities of Kegan Kline aka anthony-shots on the social media platform Snapchat, it is disturbing to see so many additional cases where Snapchat and Facebook were used to intimidate and exploit children, obtain child sexual abuse material, and to even facilitate meetings for the purposes of committing acts of abuse against children. The preceding cases represent just a few of the convictions obtained within the past few months and are limited to the Southern District of Indiana jurisdiction. There are other Indiana cases where the internet and/or social media was involved, but specific platforms were not named in the press releases. Obviously, if one were to expand out to a wider time frame, or to include other jurisdictions than just one in Indiana, the scope of the horror would increase significantly.
One would hope that eliminating this type of predatory behavior would be a top priority of these social media companies. But here we are, five years removed from the murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German, and Snapchat and Facebook continue to be platforms where predators go to victimize children. We may one day learn that Liberty’s Snapchat activity played no role in the Delphi homicides, but the Kegan Kline interview illustrates in disturbing clarity how vulnerable children are to abuse on these platforms. While the NCMEC is to be commended for their efforts to monitor these platforms and expose child predators, why aren’t the tech companies themselves doing more to clean up these spaces?