FORT WHITE, Fla. - A convicted murderer who was released from prison in February last year is in trouble again after authorities in Columbia County said he sent a 12-year-old girl a nude photo of himself and tried to lure her to his home.
William Edward Ward, 60, of Fort White was arrested Thursday afternoon at his business.
Ward was charged with obscene communication and cruelty toward a child. Both charges were described as using a computer to solicit or lure a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor.
According to the arrest report, the Columbia County Sherriff’s Office began investigating Ward last Thursday after the parent of a 12-year old girl filed a complaint. The parent said a man had been sending inappropriate text messages to her daughter via Snapchat.
According to the report, the messages began on April 1.
An investigator looked at the messages and learned the girl had been in contact with a man whose Snapchat handle was Billyward2019. The investigator later identified Billyward2019 as William Ward, the report said.
When the investigator first started reviewing the messages, he discovered images of a woman wearing clothing from a clothing line that the investigator said was sponsored an adult website.
The investigator noted in the report that he believed Billyward2019 was using the images and the conversations to lure the 12-year-old girl into exchanging sexual images or participating in a sexual act.
That same day, another investigator took the girl’s cellphone to further investigate the communication between Ward and the girl and took over the girl’s Snapchat account.
According to the report, the investigator who was secretly pretending to be the 12-year-old girl got a message from Ward stating he could buy the girl an outfit from the website and that she could get away with anything and do anything she wanted.
The undercover investigator said Ward even mentioned that he was surprised at how old she actually was and that she looked like she was 19. The investigator noted in the report that Ward mentioned how he noticed the girl and that she is a "tease."
The next three pages of the report were heavily redacted but the end of the report states that:
- On April 5, Ward attempted to make plans for the child to come to his place for conversation.
- On April 10, Ward messaged the girl to come over to his place to spend the night.
- Ward sent the girl a nude picture of himself.
On Thursday, detectives showed up at Ward’s business where he was taken into custody. According to the detective, Ward confessed to sending inappropriate messages to a minor.
Ward made his first appearance in court Friday morning where a judge set his bond at $200,000.
Court records show that in August 1984, Ward was sentenced to 70 years in prison in Indiana for second-degree murder and armed burglary, but he was released from prison in February of last year.
He moved to Fort White, Florida, just four days after his release and was placed on one year of probation that ended this past February.
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