CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The goal today is the same as the initiative created 10 years ago: keeping kids from predators.
Criminal charges were filed in federal court Wednesday against two men for sexually exploiting children, law enforcement officials said.
Charges in the cases, which are not related, coincide with the 10th anniversary of Project Safe Childhood, the Justice Department's program to combat the sexual exploitation of children, both online and in person.
Eric Shotwell, 41, of Minerva, was charged with crossing state lines to engage in sexually explicit conduct with a minor after police recovered a missing 14-year-old Missouri girl at his home in Stark County.
The girl was reported missing on March 11. Police determined the girl was using the "TextNow" app on her phone and traced it to Shotwell's home on West 1st Street. The girl was recovered on March 17 and Shotwell was arrested. The girl told investigators she met Shotwell on a dating site she was on to make new friends and they exchanged nude photos.
According to court documents, Shotwell engaged in sexual acts with the girl even though he knew she was 14.
The girl also told investigators that Shotwell became violent at his home, punching her, slapping her, pushing her into a wall and calling her a "stupid bitch" and "stupid whore". He placed chains around feet and neck, tightening the chains until she passed out. Investigators found chains in Shotwell's bedroom when they searched his home.
In another case, James D. Sullivan, 58, of Cleveland, was charged with attempted production of child pornography and possession of child pornography. Federal agents searched his computer after he was arrested for filming girls and women in the shower at Geneva State Park on July 18. The search revealed Sullivan used the laptop to view child pornography and images of children being sexually assaulted.
They gathered his DNA from the scene and that helped lead to Sullivan's arrest today. The FBI says both men used the internet to find and exploit children.
Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland FBI office, says it cannot stop predators alone, parents can't do it alone. He says it takes the whole community.
"This process goes on behind the scenes on all these apps with all the various technologies that they're building this relationships of trust
then they're able to do what they able to do, several examples of which we saw," Anthony said.
At the time of his arrest, Sullivan was on probation after having served more than 25 years in state prison for raping a 12-year-old girl, photographing the act, and assaulting other child victims.
Meantime, a grand jury this week indicted Richard Purnell, 55, of Parma, on one count of sex trafficking of children. Purnell knowingly solicited a minor to engage in commercial sex acts between October 2015 and May 6, 2016. He sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl who was advertised on the web site backpage.com. These assaults continued after the girl turned 14, according to court documents.
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