Advocates send online safety reminders after molestation case

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BLOOMINGTON, IN--- A meeting on a popular social media site turned into a criminal investigation for sex crimes. Investigators in Monroe County said four men molested a 13-year old girl they met through an app called Whisper. It allows users to share secrets anonymously.

Evan Miller, 25, of Bloomington, George Pearcy, 21, Mathew Filipek, 23, and Thomas Snape, 23, were each arrested and charged with child molestation, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. The teen told police the encounters happened at the men's homes and in a parked car in an elementary school parking lot. An investigation started after the teen reported it to school officials.

Investigators said they also conducted search warrants at three homes. Those results weren't available yet, but investigators said they collected cell phones as part of evidence.

The sheriff and child advocates are reminding parents to keep an eye on their kids' electronic devices in hopes of preventing any similar crime.

"Several years ago we were talking about older teens that were getting smart phones and things like that but now I see 9,10 year olds that have this kind of technology at their fingertips," Sandy Runkle, the director of programs at Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said.

That technology can create more accessibility for potential perpetrators to prey on a child's vulnerabilities.

"Reassuring them that they can always come to you and that things online may not always be as they seem," Runkle said.

She said it's important parents start having conversations with their children early on about boundaries, keep an open line of communication and check their technology.

"We hope that it will minimize opportunity, plus we find that the more educated adults are and the more knowledgeable and empowered children are, that will make them less likely to be a victim," Runkle said.

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