COVINGTON - A 56-year-old grandfather has been arrested by the Newton County Sheriff's Office after he allegedly made a date via the Internet with a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, according to Lt. Bill Watterson.
Timothy C. Lunsford of Troy, Ala., was arrested and charged with sexual exploitation of children, electronically furnishing obscene material to a minor, and computer pornography early Monday morning after he allegedly showed up for a rendezvous with the "child" he had been conversing with on the Internet during the past year.
An undercover investigator posing as the child had made arrangements to meet Lunsford in the parking lot of a large retail store in Covington. Instead, he was met with a contingent of deputies and investigators, Watterson said. They observed him enter the shopping area, but he apparently decided to leave and got on Interstate 20.
"We were not going to let him get away at that point in time," Watterson said. "He was stopped and placed under arrest."
Watterson said Lunsford, a married man with grown children and grandchildren, had sent explicit photos and engaged in graphic conversation with the investigator he believed to be a 13-year-old girl. Lunsford allegedly made contact with the investigator through Yahoo! Messenger and the two chatted online.
Lunsford, a former resident of Dallas, Ga., does not have a criminal background, Watterson said.
Watterson said five other Internet predators have been successfully prosecuted by the NCSO in an ongoing effort by the department.
He referred to episodes of "Dateline NBC" that have shown the lengths to which many will go to have sexual contact with children.
"People need to remember people can pose and be whatever they want to be through the Internet," he said. "They can get a photo of anybody, and say they are that person, when in reality, they're not."
Watterson cautioned against the use of chat rooms, especially chatting with someone not personally known to you. He said giving information like a date of birth or favorite activities is often enough to enable a predator to track you down.
The NCSO offers computer safety classes to any parents or other individuals or groups who are interested. For more information, call Watterson at 678-625-1446 or Investigator Sharron Stewart at 678-625-1406.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.