Police arrested an 18-year-old man in Covington, Louisiana, this week for allegedly raping at least three young girls between 11 and 13 years old after meeting them through mutual acquaintances or targeting them on the popular social media app Snapchat.
The suspect, Ryheim Ross, is currently in custody on three charges of first-degree rape and domestic abuse battery, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office announced in a news release on Wednesday.
Ross had previously been arrested and booked on a rape charge in February as a result of an investigation into his alleged criminal actions against an 11-year-old. However, later, as that investigation continued, authorities reportedly became aware of two more alleged victims who were ages 12 and 13 when the crimes were committed.
Police filed subsequent charges against Ross in March for his alleged rape of the 12-year-old and in November for his rape of the 13-year-old.
Ross was also charged with one count of domestic abuse battery in connection with injuries he caused to his adult girlfriend, which authorities discovered as a result of the investigations, the sheriff's department noted.
“It is utterly appalling that this suspect preyed on young children using Snapchat and mutual acquaintances! When this happens in our community, those committing such heinous acts will be apprehended and charged accordingly,” said Sheriff Randy Smith in a statement.
“Please be vigilant and if you have young children using social media, carefully monitor their content to protect them from being victimized,” Smith added.
The news is a stark reminder for parents to be more diligent in monitoring their young children's use of social media apps such as Snapchat, which allows users to befriend other accounts and communicate with each other through short videos as well as photos and text messages.
The sheriff's department added that given the nature of Ross' crimes and the age of his victims, they believe there could be more out there who have yet to come forward with similar allegations.
The department instructed parents and members of the public to share any information they may have on additional victims by calling Sgt. Ryan Suhre at (985) 726-7839.
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