SANTA ROSA – There is something about 13-year-old girls that makes a child molester, or potential child molester, go mad. Detectives in many jurisdictions have been effectively using fictitious 13-year-olds as bait to attract men who will use social media to arrange a sexual liaison with who they think are young teens. Fortunately they are catching these predators in a way that is harmless to actual girls, but of course it raises concern that some of them may be getting away with it. Enough, at least, that the lure does not immediately raise a red flag in these men’s minds that their potential victim may really be a full grown, usually male, detective who has other plans for them.
Placer County Sheriffs recently announced their fourth catch since February in a sting to catch predators who are led to believe they have made a connection with a 13-year-old. The Santa Rosa Police Department’s Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Investigations Team has had similar success, including the arrest in June of five men who contacted undercover detectives thinking they were arranging a sexual meeting with a 13-year-old girl, who was supposedly being prostituted. In May, a 38-year-old Santa Rosa man, Kenneth Blanton, was lured into communicating with a 13-year-old, but in his case it was a boy he was interested in.
An investigation by the Santa Rosa team that began in April focused on a local man who was reportedly communicating with underage girls and making inappropriate comments to them via social media contacts. According to a police press release, the detectives began their own communications with him. The detective posed as a 13-year-old girl and made contact with the suspect, 42-year-old Jon Garate.
The online chats Garate had with the person he thought was a teenage girl were documented by the detectives. Garate told her he wanted her to be his girlfriend, and for her to send him pictures. He said he would take her to Six Flags amusement park, and encouraged her to lie to her mother and not reveal their relationship. The online conversations gradually become more sexual in nature, until he told her he wanted to meet up with her.
The fictitious girl arranged a meeting with Garate for today, July 10 at 11:00 am at the corner of Sonoma and Yulupa Avenues in Santa Rosa, likely at the New Vintage Church, the only public location in the residential street corner. Rather than finding a young girl eager to spend time with him, Garate found detectives and police officers eager to arrest him and book him into Sonoma County Jail. He was charged with lewd acts with a child under 14, harmful materials sent to a minor, communication with a minor for purposes of exploitation, and arranging to meet a minor for the purpose of a lewd act. Bail was set at $130,000, but immediately denied because he was on probation and clearly violated the terms.
While in this instance the victim was a fictitious person, detectives wished to remind parents that where there is smoke there is fire. Predators are out there ready and willing to exploit children, and even though some are caught in stings like this one, many more may be getting away with it. Parents are encouraged to stay on top of their kids’ online activities and social media contacts. Unrestricted access to internet and media can lead to problems, and even tragedies.