Detective on unsupervised online activity: ‘child has own little world and you’re not in it’

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- Statistics show one in five teenagers who use the internet have received an unwanted sexual solicitation and of those kids only 25 percent told a parent.

A Goochland family learned that the hard way when a 25-year-old New Zealand man traveled across the world and showed up at their doorstep to see their 14-year-old daughter.

Armed with a knife and duct tape, deputies say Troy Skinner tried to break into the home June 22, to get to the teen he’d met on the gaming app Discord, but he was shot by her mother when he attempted to break in. Investigators said the child had tried to stop communications.

“What their ultimate goal is not actually found out until we are to the point where we can arrest them,” said Louisa County Detective Chuck Love.

While not connected to the Goochland case, Sergeant Love has experience with this as a detective for the Louisa County Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

He also knows exactly who’s looking to click with your child when you’re not watching.

“Their life online is probably as dangerous if not more dangerous than their life in person,” said Love. “It’s like the child has their own little world and you’re not in it.”

Daniel Racette entered into that world March 8, 2010.

That’s when he received a call from Louisa County High School after his 14-year-old foster daughter confided in her guidance counselor that her 16-year-old online boyfriend Dominic was suicidal and had shot himself in the chest. She also revealed that they had exchanged photos and that he had sent her nude pictures and was sexually communicating with her. She disclosed he asked if he could get her pregnant.

“A lot of time the child believes they are going to meet someone their own age, so they think the person is totally safe,” said Love.

Investigators determined, unbeknown to the child, she was actually communicating with a 46-year-old Canadian school bus driver named Alan Sauve.

“We were in a state of shock initially and pissed off that somebody would even try to do that,” said the victim’s foster father Daniel Racette.

Daniel Racette

At that point, an undercover Louisa detective took over the teen’s online identity and started communicating with Sauve.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, CBS 6 obtained communications between Sauve and the detective whom he thought was the 14-year-old girl.

In the detective’s incident report, he stated Sauve ‘was very interested in obtaining sexually explicit pictures of [the victim] via cell phone.’

“In the beginning they are very friendly and then they become more and more controlling to the point where your time is there time. It gets to the point that you are jumping through hoops trying to maintain what they want you to do,” said Love.

The messages detail Sauve’s plan to drive from his home in Windsor, Ontario and book a motel in Louisa. He then graphically expresses what he planned to do to the teen when they met.

Detectives say Sauve was determined get the child pregnant and take her back to Canada with him and marry her.

However, he’d be arrested November 13, 2010 after crossing the border in Plymouth, Michigan and ultimately be sentenced to 110 years in prison.

“She could have been killed, molested any number of things hauled off to Canada who knows,” said Racette. “It happens fast and you just got to be on your guard all the time.”

Alan Sauve

Racette said, if it happened to his family it can happen to yours.

“You can have the best safeguards in the world. The best oversight. It will happen to you anyway,” said Racette.

The retired Naval officer and his wife have two biological kids and have fostered 82 children through the years and he says they ran a tight ship.

“We are very strict,” said Racette. “Whenever our girls dated anybody I made a photocopy of their driver’s license.”

He said when his 14-year-old foster daughter used the computer it was in a public space and many of the foster children came to them with phones of their own.

“Kids are getting phones in the 6th grade, 5th grade… that’s stupid,” he said. “Wait til they are older. I was 52 when I got my first cell phone.”

“A lot of times they [parents] toss that phone at their child and never look back and that child is using that phone for all kinds of different things,” said Love.

“They’re handing their child the ability to go to the worst part of this world, a very dark world and they’re leaving their child exposed and unaccompanied in this bad part of town per say and leaving them to fend for themselves,” he added.

Experts say if you choose to get your child a phone you should be checking it regularly.

“A lot of times parents have no restrictions on the phone so these kids 12, 13, 14-year-old kids have just as much access as a 22-year-old has online,” said Love.

“If you think of how much of the internet is laced with pornography well you just handed your child something that they have access to all of that and more. Your child shouldn’t have that kind of privacy that’s going to allow them to endanger themselves or even the parents.”

Experts also recommends monitoring who your kids are sharing pictures with.

“Each phone has metadata that has GPS coordinates of every picture that’s ever taken. It’s real easy for one of these individuals who want to commit these crimes to find out where the kid lives who his parents are,” said Love.

Love also says “sexting,” or sending sexual images, is becoming widespread among kids and recommends kids not be permitted to take their phones in their rooms. He says they should be in a public place in the house along with the computer and they should have to come to you if they want to download something from the app store.

Detective Chuck Love

“If you give them the password to the app store that’s like the keys to the car. You’ve pretty much have given them the ability to go anywhere they want to go and do anything they want to do,” said the detective. “You can take the most innocent app and make it into the worst app.”

“Would you take your child and drop your child off to the worst place in the city and leave your child there and walk away? Well, that’s pretty much what people are doing with cell phones. You have got to know what they are doing on the cell phone just as much as you do in real life.”

Investigators say, the best prevention is to just say hand me your phone and check it. There are also stealth apps that can help you monitor your child’s electronic activity.

Parents can educate themselves on apps and more through the Social Media Awareness and Training Initiative or S.M.A.R.T.

CBS 6 reached out to Alan Sauve in prison for this story, but we have not received a response.

Troy Skinner made his first court appearance at the end of July after being hospitalized for a month.

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