crime & courts

Two IU students arrested in child molestation case

Four Monroe County men, including two IU students, have been arrested on charges of child molestation after a 13-year-old girl reported the men, independently of each other, engaged in sexual acts with her in their homes or in a car parked in a parking lot of a local elementary school.

The victim told deputies she met them through a social media app, “Whisper.” Each of the sexual encounters occurred during fall 2016, and all four men were arrested on charges of child molestation, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Two of the men, Matthew J. Filipek, 23, and George W. R. Pearcy, 21, are IU students.

At the time of publishing, Filipek and Pearcy did not respond to Indiana Daily Student request for comment.

By using a social media app to meet older men, the victim could have been vulnerable to “any number of horrors,” Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain said.

“With this type of act she could have disappeared forever without a trace,” Swain said. “The potential for tragedy — you just don’t even want to think about it.”

The MCSO investigation began last month after the victim’s school staff learned the victim may have been in a sexual relationship with an adult man, according to a press release.

The victim said she had a sexual encounter with a 25-year-old man, and this man knew her age. She later told MCSO investigators she met three other adult men at their Bloomington homes.

The victim’s report included a “tremendous amount of detail,” according to the release. Detectives used digital evidence, including text messages, to corroborate her statement, according to the release. The detectives identified the four men, found probable cause and issued warrants to the men individually.

One man may have met the victim multiple times. Current evidence indicates that all four men knew the victim was underage, Swain said.

During the course of the last few weeks MCSO deputies arrested all four suspects on charges of child molestation. They are all from Bloomington.

Evan Miller, 25, was the first of the four men arrested. Deputies arrested Miller on Feb. 2. According to MyCase, an online database of Indiana civil and criminal cases, Miller has a history of criminal charges, including a battery causing bodily injury in 2015, failure to use a seatbelt and having an open container while driving in 2015, driving while suspended in 2013, and two charges of underage consumption of alcohol in 2010, in Monroe County. Miller was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center with a bond of $1,000.

Pearcy, 21, was arrested Monday. According to the IU Address Book Pearcy is a student and employee of Residential Programs and Services. According to Pearcy’s LinkedIn account he is a political science major and a former student mentor. According to Pearcy’s Facebook account he is the associate editor of the IU Journal of Undergraduate Research. Pearcy appears to have no prior criminal record.

Filipek, 23, was arrested Tuesday. According to the IU Address Book, Filipek is an IU student and a temporary employee in the biology department. According to his LinkedIn account, Filipek is a master’s student in biotechnology. Filipek appears to have no prior criminal record.

Thomas A. Snape, 23, was arrested Wednesday and was additionally charged with possession of a controlled substance. According to IU Address Book, Snape is not a student. However, his LinkedIn account states he graduated from the IU Kelley School of Business in 2015 with a degree in accounting. He was wearing a Kelley School of Business T-shirt in his mug shot. Snape appears to have no prior criminal record.

Pearcy and Filipek were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center with a bond of $500. As of Wednesday evening, the MCSO had not published Snape’s jail booking record.

The MCSO described Whisper in its press release as “an anonymous social networking application” where users can chat with each other anonymously. When a user posts a public whisper if someone responds, it will show the approximate distance between the user who posted the Whisper and the user replying, according to the MCSO release. Whisper does not require the user to register and users generally do not provide identifying information to the app.

Whisper stores content posted for public viewing, however once users start to chat with each other, that data is not public content, and Whisper does not keep a record of those conversations, according to the release. Additionally, Whisper is also not able to match posted content with an exact IP address, which makes it “almost impossible for law enforcement to obtain information” from the app, according to the release.

Parents should be mindful that Whisper offers users anonymity, and apps such as Whisper can “facilitate a child’s reckless decisions,” Swain said. Had the 13-year-old not discussed her use of the app at school, and had the school not called law enforcement, it’s very possible the victim’s parents would never have learned about her use of the app, Swain said.

Swain urged parents to not be “buddy-buddy” when it comes to monitoring their children’s online activity.

“There’s no sense of fair play when it comes to protecting a child who’s going to do conscious, shocking activity,” Swain said. “For Heaven’s sakes, nobody wants to have that kind of thing in their household. You don’t want to be in a position as parents where you wish you’d been a little more nosy.”

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