CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (KSNT) — A 13-year-old Topeka girl is safe at home after being taken to Georgia by a man she met in an online game, according to the Clayton County Police Department.
Clayton County jail records show Howard L. Graham, 33, is being held without bail on the following charges:
- fornication with minors
- Sexual exploitation of a child
- encroachment on custody
- Cruelty to children in the first degree
- Severe child abuse
- Human Trafficking for Work or Service
Clayton County Police Department held a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to share details about the case, noting that Graham had driven about 13 hours from Georgia to Topeka on Feb. 20 to pick up the teenager.
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The CCPD spokesman said Graham and the teenager only met at the online game Roblox last Friday, February 18, before he convinced her to run away from home.
“Between the time they got here on Sunday and Thursday night when she was released at Dollar General, they had had sexual intercourse many times, and she finally told one of the roommates that she wanted to return home,” he said Speaker. “The roommates were under the impression that this was the stepdaughter of [Graham].”
The teenager later explained to Graham’s roommates that he was not her stepfather, and the roommates confronted him, according to the CCPD. Graham then took the girl to a local Dollar General Store and left her there. The girl was able to reach her family and tell them where she was and the police were able to reunite her with them. CCPD said officers found Graham at his place of work shortly after discovering the teenager and arrested him.
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“It was very pleasing to see the reaction on his face because he didn’t know we knew who he was,” said the CCPD spokesman.
Graham faces charges in Topeka, and the FBI is getting involved in the case, according to Clayton County Police. The Topeka Police Department told KSNT News that it was not involved in the investigation, other than capturing an initial runaway report into the teen’s disappearance.
A Roblox spokesperson gave this statement to KSNT’s sister station in Georgia, WJBF, on the incident:
“We were deeply saddened to hear about this case. For parents – including the many parents who work at Roblox – there is nothing more important than ensuring children are safe as they learn and play, online or offline. We work tirelessly to prevent grooming on our platform. We have strict security systems and a team of thousands of moderators who enforce a strict set of community standards for Roblox, including zero tolerance for sexual content of any kind. Although we have not been contacted by the authorities in this case, we always cooperate law enforcement inquiries and promptly report suspicious behavior to appropriate organizations such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the United States.”
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Roblox also mentioned preventative measures that parents can enable for kids in the game to avoid predatory situations.
“We filter all text chats on the platform to block inappropriate content or personal information, and we offer parental controls and features like ‘account restrictions’ so parents and carers have the ability to limit chat to a curated list of contacts or disable chat altogether. Users can also mute or block players they encounter in-game, and report inappropriate content or behavior through our report abuse system.”
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