PALM COAST, Fla. – A 19-year-old was arrested Thursday, accused of raping an 11-year-old girl he met on Facebook, according to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said Karl Westgate, of Palm Coast, started an online relationship with the girl, including asking her about drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and sexual acts. Investigators said the conversations occurred daily and for several hours at a time.
"We have been investigating this incident for approximately three weeks," Sheriff James Manfre said. "Our major case detectives worked diligently to protect this young victim."
According to the Sheriff's Office, Westgate coerced the victim into sending nude photos of herself, and in exchange, he sent nude photos of himself. The relationship escalated when Westgate visited the girl's home and committed a sexual act upon her, deputies said.
Flagler County Deputy Paula Priester said the girl's parents notified police that their child had been sexually battered.
"The child was able to divulge this information to her parents and ultimately the parent was able to go on Facebook, find the messages, find the photographs, which certainly assisted us with the investigation and making this arrest," said Priester.
Now the sheriff's office is warning parents to monitor the social media accounts of their children.
"As a parent, you have to be very cautious and very careful because you don't know who's out there," said Priester. "You should have the child on the computer in the family room or dining room but certainly not behind closed doors, not in a bedroom where it can't be monitored; certainly you want to communicate with your child about this sort of thing to prevent this from happening to them," Priester said.
Westgate was arrested and charged with lewd or lascivious molestation, sexual battery on a person less than 12 years old, computer pornography transmission, child exploitation, and promoting sexual performance by a child. Westgate is being held without bond in the Flagler County Detention Facility.