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Man pleads guilty to child solicitation

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Police said Crowder propositioned teen using Facebook, intimidated witness

Staff Report

INDEPENDENCE — The Grayson County Circuit Court was prepared to hear the case against James Norwood Crowder, 42, of Christiansburg, on Jan. 12, when the defendant waived his right to trial and pleaded guilty to proposing sex with a child.

The charge stems from a Dec. 2014 report that Crowder solicited sex from a 12-year-old girl through Facebook Messenger, a social media chat platform. The complainant reported that she was monitoring her niece’s internet activity when she discovered the messages from Crowder, according to a news release from the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office.

She said Crowder, who was a relative, messaged her on Facebook several times between Nov. 11-26, 2014.

Grayson County Investigator Doug Carner, who serves on the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, was assigned the case. Carner presented evidence to a magistrate and obtained a search warrant for Facebook records. The records revealed the suspect’s Internet Protocol (IP) address and 276 pages of communications between Crowder and the child, the release confirmed.

Carner testified before a Grayson County grand jury and an indictment was returned for soliciting a child through use of communications system, a Class 5 felony in Virginia.

During the time the case was being continued, a witness came forward and told Grayson Commonwealth’s Attorney Doug Vaught that Crowder allegedly scared her into interfering in the investigation, according to the release. The witness initially tried to give Crowder an alibi, but later corroborated the statements of the victim and was instrumental in the prosecution of the case.

As part of the plea agreement made on Jan. 12, the court sentenced Crowder to 10 years in prison, with six years suspended; and he is required to register as a sex offender. Bailiffs took Crowder into custody and he was transported to the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin.

Carner commended the victim and witness for their bravery in coming forward and urged parents to be aware of their children’s internet activity.

For more information about keeping kids safe online, go to: ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/internet-safety.