An arrest has been made following the rape of a 14-year-old girl in the Dallesport area in mid-January.
On Jan. 22, Klickitat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) detectives arrested a suspect in the case. Troy L. Meza, 29, of Beaverton, Ore., has been charged with one count of alleged child rape and two counts of alleged communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Meza is being held in Klickitat County Jail in Goldendale.
According to Klickitat County Sheriff Chris Mace, the suspect made contact with two young girls in Klickitat County through an Internet chat room. Using a false name and with a cell phone with a number out of California, Meza allegedly made arrangements to meet one of the girls in the Dallesport area.
The girl was then assaulted sexually.
KCSO detective Steve Shields was able to identify a suspect in the case. According to Sheriff Mace, when the suspect subsequently returned to Klickitat County in an attempt to meet with a second girl, also 14, Meza was arrested.
"He came back to meet up with the second juvenile, and deputies were waiting," Mace explained. "We see it in the news all the time, and it really hurts when it happens so close to home."
Mace said Meza was arrested without incident, and he was not carrying any weapons.
The Salem Police Department and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are leading the investigating in Oregon, and the FBI and the U.S. Customs Bureau are also involved in investigating possible additional federal crimes.
According to Mace, the Customs Bureau has a branch that deals specifically with state-to-state crimes over the Internet.
Sheriff Mace praised his staff for being able to make a swift arrest in the case.
"Detective Shields did a great job with very little information at the start to piece it together," Mace said. "And the cooperation with Oregon and federal officials has been great."
Mace pointed out that Oregon law enforcement agencies assisted with a search warrant that led to more evidence, and have been searching the suspect's computer hard drive for additional evidence.
"These chat rooms are a very unsafe place for unsuspecting minors," said Chris Connolly, who works as a legal advocate in sexual assault and abuse cases for Programs For Peaceful Living. The organization, which has offices in White Salmon and Goldendale, provides aid and support to victims of domestic and/or sexual violence.
Connolly pointed out that perpetrators of these types of crimes can come from anywhere.
"A lot of sex offenders post themselves very deceptively and lure minors," Connolly warned. "It's very easy for them to pose as teenagers themselves. You can't tell who you're talking to."
Sheriff Mace issued a statement to warn the community to remain vigilant against this type of crime.
"We again want to warn and caution children and parents about the risks associated with Internet chat rooms and meeting people as a result of these chat rooms," read the KCSO statement. "It is important to know when children are involved with these chat rooms. Never allow a meeting without a parent or guardian being involved. Encourage your children to report strange or unusual conversations or contacts that may seem suspicious."
"Everybody needs to do what they can to protect the kids," Mace said.