SATURDAY UPDATE: Officer Webb tells us Marshall was indicted on a felony charge of prohibited use of electronic communication system to procure minor for sexual offenses. He is also facing a misdemeanor charge.
ORIGINAL STORY: Do you know who your child is talking to online? Investigators say sexual predators are using social media apps to lure in young victims.
In Kentucky, it's illegal for registered sex offenders to have accounts on sites that kids use, like Facebook and Twitter. Investigators say that didn't stop 31-year-old Jeffrey Marshall of Mayfield, Kentucky from using social media to send dozens of inappropriate photos to underage girls. His lawyer appeared in Graves County District Court on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing, which was continued to a later day. Marshall is facing 78 counts of distributing obscene material, which are misdemeanor charges.
Mayfield Police Officer Trevor Webb says several months ago, a local mother told him she found inappropriate photos of Marshall on her 12-year-old daughter's phone.
"He uses social media to start to stalk her and to start to use that to his advantage," says Webb.
Marshall was arrested in April. Police got a warrant to search his phone and computer. Though their investigation, Webb says they found Marshall had been talking to girls across the country.
"He was making certain comments and gestures towards them and sending these pictures, and they continue to speak with him," says Officer Webb.
Officer Webb say Marshall was sending lewd photos and having inappropriate conversations on social media with 15 young girls between the ages of 10 and 16.
Commonwealth Attorney David Hargrove says it's a parents job to be the first line of defense in stopping predators from preying on their child.
"You just have to sacrifice privacy," says Hargrove. "You have to look through their phones periodically. You have to know what they're doing and who they're talking to."
Hargrove says it's not an invasion of privacy, it's good parenting.
The Mayfield Police Department says checking your child's phone is more than just looking at the texts and photos. Webb says it's important to go through every app and search around.
Webb says, if a local mother didn't go through her daughter's phone and find those photos of Marshall, Marshall would most likely still be out trying to lure young girls.
If convicted, Marshall could serve up to 12 months in jail. If that does happen and he serves his time, gets out and does this again, Hargrove says that's when Marshall would be facing felony charges.
"The penalties really aren't severe enough for that type of thing," says Hargrove. "I don't think the law has really kept up with technology."
Marshall could still face a felony if a Graves County Grand Jury decides to charge him with using the internet to solicit sex with a minor. That decision is still pending.
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