Can a message from a 25-year-old man to a 15-year-old girl he doesn’t know ever be innocent? It may have seemed that way at first to the girl who got a message on her Facebook account from Edel Cruz in late August.
One morning the teenager received a message and replied, perhaps curious over who he was, and if she in fact knew him. The Santa Rosa Police reported that the two carried on a brief on-line conversation. Cruz told her he was 21, and she told him she was 15. The messages between them were all considered non-offensive, and the girl finally replied that she needed to stop messaging.
Later that afternoon, Cruz re-initiated the conversation, and she again replied, but perhaps realizing she did not know who he was, she stopped responding. Cruz, however, did not give up, and sent her more messages that evening, but this time he sent her a lewd photo, several vulgar texts, and another explicit picture. The girl immediately alerted her parents, and they contacted Santa Rosa police to report the incident. A detective from the Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Investigations Team was assigned to the case.
The detective initiated a common plan to catch suspected predators. He began sending messages to Cruz from a dummy account, posing as a 13-year-old girl. Cruz took the bait, and over the next few weeks, he communicated with the fictitious girl, and began to ask her for photos. Like he had done previously, he started sending lewd photos and messages, including explicit instructions to the young teen on how to engage in certain sexual acts, and gave her a link to a pornographic website he wanted her to check out. He finally tried to arrange a meeting with her to engage in sexual relations. The detective posing as the girl readily agreed to meet him.
The meeting was arranged for Friday, September 26 at 3:30 pm, after school was out. She was to meet him near his apartment, near Aston Avenue and Petaluma Hill Road. He showed up, but instead of getting together with his intended target, he was met by Santa Rosa PD detectives. He was arrested and placed into custody, and his computer tablet was also seized as evidence. It will be examined to determine if other minors have been targeted, or even molested by him in the past.
Edel Cruz, also known as Faustino Edel Cruz-Melo, was booked at the Sonoma County Jail on charges of attempted lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, two counts of sending harmful matter with intent of seduction to a minor, and two counts of arranging a meeting with a minor for exploitation. Bail was set at $100,000.00.
Detectives wish to remind parents that they should check what their children are doing while online, and talk to them about online safety. Providing children with unrestricted access to the internet and social media without checking to make sure they are safe can cause many problems. Predators are out there and this case is an example of how they manipulate and exploit children. Anyone who feels they may have been victimized by this man, or anyone else, is encouraged to contact police as soon as possible.