WEST POINT, Utah -- Behind the veil of a computer screen, a complete stranger became acquainted with dozens of young girls at West Point Junior High School.
“I thought it was really scary that he actually has been emailing and sending all these girls things and texting them,” said Annie Lyons, an eighth grader at the school.
About a week ago, Lyons heard from a person named “Nick” on Facebook. While she didn’t recognize him, she noticed many of her classmates knew him online.
“He sent me a friend request,” Lyons said. “And I usually friend anyone who has mutual friends with me. So, I just friended him, not thinking it’s a big deal.”
But then, the person’s name changed, and she received a text message.
“He sent me a thing that says, ‘Hey you,’ which was kind of odd to me. So, I didn’t say anything back,” Lyons said.
She was one of about two hundred girls at the school who received a friend request from “Nick” last week.
“He was just like texting me on and on about how we should hangout, or meet him out somewhere, somewhere alone,” said ninth grader Shaiann Rogerson.
About 30 of the students accepted his request online, and after many started complaining to the school about the messages, Davis County Sheriff’s Deputy Geoff Hasty started investigating.
“He or she could be anywhere, of any age,” said Hasty, who works as a school resource officer.
Online, Hasty said the person’s profile page had little information, but he or she represented themselves to the girls as a male between the ages of 18 and 25.
“It had an individual with their stomach muscles showing and another picture of them,” Hasty said. “But no face and no real way to prove who it was.”
Conversations with the students escalated from first introductions to inquiries about events the girls were discussing on their walls. Because the person began showing interest in a recent school dance, Hasty said officers were on patrol outside of it, in case he or she tried to attend.
“The fact that it was all females at different schools being targeted, or the focus of the attention, that was concerning,” Hasty said.
The person had also created a Twitter account and was contacting the students on their phones using the Internet. Once the girls stopped responding, though, all the accounts were deleted last Thursday.
“You could be anywhere in the world and contact anybody else in the world and represent yourself however you want on these Facebook and social media sites,” Hasty said.
None of the students have heard from the person since. However, for many, he or she has served as a reminder of the dangers you can meet online.
“It makes you feel nervous,” Parent Susan Arnita said. “Obviously, there’s usually only one reason why they want information like that, and it’s kind of scary.”
According to Hasty, students at several other schools in the county were also contacted by the same person.
The sheriff’s office is working on the case with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, which is based in Salt Lake City. Investigators plan to screen possible charges the person could face with the Davis County District Attorney’s Office. However, Hasty said it is unclear if the individual has done anything illegal, at this point.