A mom and dad in Sedro-Wooley, Washington, took “To Catch A Predator”-esque tactics into their own hands and caught their teenage daughter’s sex offender boyfriend sending dick pics to a supposed 15-year-old girl over Facebook.
William Elms (also known as Liam) is a 19-year-old low-level/”level one” sex offender for committing third-degree child molestation. He was also dating a 17-year-old girl since April, against her parents’ wishes. So this July, with the help of one of their daughter’s friends who was a “friend” with Elms on Facebook, Jesper and Julie Myrfors created a fake Facebook profile for an imaginary 15-year-old girl and went after Elms themselves.
According to GoSkagit.com, the Myrfors created a profile for “Ashley,” uploaded photos and made her friends with their daughter’s real-life friend. The real-life friend and “Ashley” pretended to get into a fight, which the friend confided to Elms about. Within a day, Elms sent a friend request to “Ashley,” which the mother accepted. In no time at all, the conversation turned “dirty, violent and nasty” and sexual; Elms also sent “Ashley” two dick pics from his cell phone. And most creepily, Elms tried to persuade “Ashley” to sneak out of her parents’ house to go camping with him and told her that if anyone asked, she should lie about her age and say she was 16.
Armed with all this creepy information, the parents went to police on August 14 with all this information. William Elms was arrested for violating his probation and held on a $25,000 bail.
The Myrfors also showed their daughter what they had been doing. ”My daughter didn’t know we had done this. I invited her on to begin watching live. She started watching conversations on our fake little person,” Julie Myrfors told NBC. “The hardest part as a parent was watching her heart break.”
I have sort of mixed reactions to this story. Mostly I think the Myrfors and the real-life friend were awesome to go to the lengths that they did to protect the 17-year-old from a creep, who not only showed his willingness to cheat on her but to cheat on her with an underage girl. The fact that the real-life friend was skeeved out enough by William Elms to help get rid of him speaks volumes to me. He certainly got what he deserved. Better that he fix his problems sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, the general premise of parents creating fake Facebook profiles to exert control over their kids’ lives — even if what they’re ultimately doing is good — makes me uncomfortable. The Myrfors, one could argue, did the right thing for their daughter. Yet you have to wonder if they tried every other outlet imaginable to break them up: grounding her, forbidding her from seeing him, whatever it took. The problem with vigilante justice is that to do it, a person by definition thinks they’re above the rules or above the law. It’s not hard to imagine that some crazy parents out there might believe they are completely justified to meddle in their kids’ lives in more fucked up and insidious ways.
I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t try to eject bad people from their kids’ lives and I do think the Myrfors seem to have been justified. But you could open a real Pandora’s box here. “Justified” behavior — especially when your kid is having sex — is all relative. Is it okay to break up your daughter’s relationship with a child molester but not okay to spy on your kid? Or is that okay, too? It’s a very 2012 sort of dilemma: if parents can use social media to meddle (for lack of a better word), should they?
Let me know what you think in the comments.