MOBILE, AL (WKRG) — All month here on News 5, we’ve heard about the dangers lurking online, waiting to meet children and teenagers who are given devices at an early age.
If you don’t believe it can happen to your child, take it from Mobile County’s Digital Forensic Examiner Laura Soulier.
Not only has Detective Soulier seen hundreds of cases involving children falling victim to online predators, she saw it happen it her own home.
Five years ago, Detective Soulier’s stepdaughter, Christine Soulier, was given her first smartphone. She downloaded Kik, a chatting app, and began chatting with a stranger.
“At the time, I was curious,” said Soulier, whose father is also in law enforcement as a Lieutenant at the Mobile Police Department. “I had strict parents, and this was a way to meet people and have fun.”
“She’s a smart girl, she’s not stupid,” said Detective Soulier of her step-daughter. “But predators have a playbook. They learn your insecurities.”
Soulier, 15-years-old at the time, met a man claiming to be “Adam,” a 23-year-old who lived just an hour away. In his pictures, Christine said he appeared to be quite attractive.
“Clean-shaven man, that had a nice jawbone,” said Christine. “At one point, he sent me a picture of him and his dog, and I love dogs.”
“I told him I was 15 and still continued to talk to me.”
Months later, Christine was telling Adam “I love you,” and the two discussed meeting each other.
Until one night, Christine was finally caught and confronted by her parents. Detective Soulier, shocked and infuriated, picked up Christine’s phone and called Adam.
“I said, ‘do you know how old the girl is you’re talking to?’ and he said, “She’s 15.”
Soulier did some digging and discovered that Adam had been partially telling the truth. His real name was Adam, he was 23, and he did live an hour away.
However, he had a criminal record, and looked nothing like the man in the photos sent to Christine.
“Must’ve weighed 340 lbs, long, stringy hair, looked like he was right out of mom’s basement,” said Soulier.
Adam was told to never contact Christine again.
Five years later, Christine is studying to join the FBI one day and Detective Soulier has since become Mobile County’s go-to digital investigator.
“[But] we nearly lost our 15-year-old daughter,” she says.
For more, watch our special report, “Apps Predators Use.”