A 22-year-old man has been arrested on allegations he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl he met by following her profile on the social media site Instagram, the Turlock Police Department reported.
The suspect has been identified as Eladio Ramirez of Modesto.
Ramirez met the victim by following her profile on Instagram when she was 13 years old, Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis said.
Instagram is a photo sharing social media site that allows people to follow and comment on the photographs users share. Profiles can be public or private.
Ramirez allegedly started following and then commenting on the girl’s photos and eventually set up a meeting with her.
The girl met with Ramirez four times. On some of the occasions she left her homes in Ceres and Turlock unbeknownst to either of her parents and was picked up by Ramirez, Lewis said.
The situation came to light on the morning of Nov. 24 when an individual reported seeing a young girl on Lewis Street sitting alongside the road crying. The responding officer learned from the girl that she had left her home without anyone knowing and when she returned a light was on inside and she was afraid to go back inside, Lewis said.
Upon further questioning, the officer uncovered the girl’s meetings with Ramirez and called in the detectives, Lewis said.
Detectives were able to locate Ramirez through his Instagram account. He was taken into custody on Dec. 4 at his Modesto residence.
Ramirez was arrested on suspicion of two counts of sodomy, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, penetration with a foreign object, and lewd and unlawful sexual intercourse, Lewis said.
Lewis said this is the first case of a sexual assault the Turlock Police Department has investigated that involved interaction initiated on Instagram.
“We want to raise awareness that this is happening in our city,” Lewis said.
The girl’s parents were unaware she was communicating with a 22-year-old man, Lewis said.
“It’s imperative that parents keep up with new technology, especially is they are giving their children access to a computer or a smart phone,” Lewis said. “It’s important that they also check and limit social media use. A 13-year-old shouldn’t have 3,000 followers on Instagram.”
Investigators suspect Ramirez may have had similar encounters with other young girls and are asking them to contact Detective Jason Tosta at 668-5550 ext. 6624.