By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Lynnwood, Wash., March 5, 2021 – New details have emerged in the case of the 32-year-old man arrested last week for arranging to meet an underage Lynnwood girl. Documents revealed that the suspect drove the 12-year-old to a residence in Kitsap County and repeated assaulted her.
The defendant, Anthony Vernon Weber, confessed that he knew her age and to sexually assaulting the victim multiple times, according to the case’s police report.
“I knew she was 12,” he told police. “It was wrong to do.”
Weber was arrested on February 26 for Child Molestation in the 2nd degree and unlawful harboring of a minor. He has no known criminal history.
According to the deputy prosecuting attorney, Jacqueline Lawrence, there are several counts of rape of a child in the 1st-degree charges pending out of Kitsap County. The State anticipates filing additional charges by March 19, 2021. If convicted, Weber could be facing up to life in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
At the time of her disappearance, the 12-year-old Lynnwood middle school student was home alone, having just finished breakfast and preparing for a day of online schoolwork due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At approximately 9:43 a.m. on February 25, a family member received a Facebook message from the girl that a vehicle – an unfamiliar blue 2000s Chevy Cavalier – was parked in front of their home and that she was scared. The family member called her and could hear her crying. At 9:54 a.m. the girl notified the family that she was safe. 10:20 a.m. was the last time family heard from her, no longer receiving any replies from the girl, with all phone calls going straight to voicemail.
The Lynnwood Police Department spoke on the phone with a friend of the girl from Wisconsin who had contacted her family following her disappearance, claiming the two had been in an online relationship for the last two months, but had never met in person.
He told police that the two had been messaging the morning of her disappearance, last hearing from her at 9:30 a.m. According to him, the girl stated that she had met an adult online who lived in her area.
Subsequent messages stated that she did not know who the adult was, was afraid, and believed that he would hurt her if she did not go outside. He added that the girl told him that the adult did not like her being on her phone.
While the LPD was reviewing the messages and emails on the girl’s school-issued laptop, they noticed an ad from the dating network “Badoo” in her email box. Detectives were able to locate her account, observing that she was in multiple conversations with male adults, some of whom believed she was 21 years old.
None of the messages under her Badoo account showed that she was meeting with anyone.
Badoo is an online dating platform founded by Russian entrepreneur Andrey Andreev in 2006.
On February 26, detectives with the LPD contacted the FBI Crimes Against Children unit, asking for assistance in locating the missing girl. The FBI was able to obtain cell phone information and records. Text messages exchanged between Weber’s phone and the girl showing that he had come to Lynnwood to pick her up outside of the house on the morning of February 25.
Weber was contacted at his home in Kitsap County, where the girl was found with him. She was taken to St. Michael Medical Center where she submitted to the exam of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), whom she told she met Weber online, and was afraid something would happen if she didn’t get into the car.
While at Weber’s residence, she alleged he coerced her into a nonconsensual sexual relationship several times over 24 hours, she told the nurse.
The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Weber, who said he met the minor on a dating site called Joy Ride about four weeks ago. He stated that at the time, he believed her to be 18 years old, as per the minimum age requirement of the site. He learned of her real age approximately three weeks prior when he and the victim first met in person at a Lynnwood middle school. Since then, they had exchanged explicit images via text messaging.
According to Joy Ride’s website, its slogan is “Play First, Date Later.”
Following this case, the Lynnwood Police Department is requesting that parents and guardians have a conversation about online safety with their children. There are numerous resources available, including through the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI:
The Lynnwood Times will be following up with websites Badoo and Joy Ride to understand the security measures and precautions being taken to safeguard against its online services being accessible to minors.