Petal substitute among arrested

By Roslyn Anderson - bio | email

RICHLAND, MS (WLBT) - Four men are in a Rankin county jail charged with enticing a child for sex on the Internet, one a Petal substitute teacher from Hattiesbug.

Three months ago a Richland parent discovered their teenaged daughter was approached on line by older men wanting more than conversation.

The Richland Police Department's resulting undercover sting took the predators from cyberspace to the lockup.

They are 32-year-old Jason Covington of Jackson, 45-year-old Dewey DeLong of Pearl, 21-year-old John Randle Jr. of Starkville, and 28-year-old Tremayne Whitehead of Hattiesburg.

"We don't realize sometimes how dangerous bringing that internet into our home is. It's just real important to understand the risks and dangers," said Richland Police Chief Russel James.

The predator sting, conducted over more than two months, involved a Richland detective posing as a 15-year-old girl online in numerous chat rooms.

All four men traveled to Richland to meet the teen.

"Hundreds of texts of instant messages came up. We were to be honest with you surprised. We did not think we were gonna get the kind of activity that we did," said James.

The Attorney General's Office assisted with computer forensics.

Their investigations of the seized computers also discovered that DeLong, Randle and Whitehead sent child pornography to minors.

"Our goal in this whole thing was to get to a point where if a person is trying to chat online with a child, and that child says 'I'm from Richland.' We want them to say 'I ain't coming to Richland', said the chief.

They plan to conduct three to four more stings within the next year.