Talk about creepy: a 54-year-old man from Massachusetts allegedly "married" a 13-year-old girl from Detroit in RuneScape and then came to the city three times to have sex.
The setting isn't anything new but frightening nonetheless: predators are trolling chat rooms and online virtual worlds looking for their next victim. John W. Phillips, 54, of Fitchburg, Mass., is allegedly one such example, charged with 11 felonies related to his so-called RuneScape marriage. These include sexual assault, using a computer to communicate with another person to commit a crime, accosting a child for immoral purposes and child sexually abusive activity.
The Detroit News reports that Phillips met the girl while playing RuneScape and began chatting on a regular basis at the beginning of 2010. Eventually Phillips tried to mail the girl a cellular telephone but for some reason the attempt proved unsuccessful. He then personally delivered the phone by driving to Detroit in his van.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon told the paper that the two had sex at an Eastpointe motel when Phillips initially arrived to deliver the phone. They had sex two additional times thereafter, once in his van and once in her mother's house. Napoleon didn't specify when the two became virtually "married" within the browser-based MMORPG.
"They got married in the game," sheriff's corporal Ray Johnson said. "Maybe he thought that was legitimate in real life. It's not."
So how did this happen? Johnson said that the mother worked two or three jobs and wasn't home long enough to see what was going on. However she grew suspicious after discovering the phone Phillips had given her daughter-- the girl wasn't allowed to have a cellular phone. After digging through the text messages, she immediately called the police.
Phillips was eventually caught and arrested after eluding law officials for an unspecified amount of time. His capture was the result of an extensive collaboration between the Wayne County Sheriff Office's Internet Crimes Unit, Michigan State Police, Wayne County prosecutors, U.S. Secret Service agents, federal prosecutors and police in Massachusetts and New York. Phillips was arraigned on January 13 and now faces a pretrial hearing on Thursday in 36th District Court. He could be charged with a possible prison sentence ranging from four to twenty years.
According to Johnson, Phillips didn't have a criminal record prior to his alleged RuneScape marriage. In fact, the report indicated that he lived alone and paid the bills by selling "Magic The Gathering" game cards.
To read the full report, head to The Detroit News here. The overall story only reiterates to parents the need to have an Internet filter in place to protect children under 18 years of age from harmful content and social situations. If it means blocking them from Facebook and RuneScape, then so be it. They'll eventually get over it once they're grown and kicked out of the house.