Sunday Mornings with Rania: Local Dad Finds Adult Man Hiding in Closet, Arrested for Online Solicitation of Minor
Last week, a Houston father came home at 5:30 a.m. after leaving his 12-year-old daughter and younger child home alone to find a 42-year-old, half-dressed man hiding in his closet. The “visitor” had gone purposely to the house in an attempt to have sex with the 12-year-old girl and is now being charged with online solicitation of a minor.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this particular case but it’s one that needs attention. Let’s go back to where it all started. On Nov. 2, 2018, this 12-year-old girl met the suspect, Christopher Leonard, on the city light rail. The two began talking and Leonard gave the girl his number. Shortly after, they began contacting each other through text messages and, eventually, phone calls.
On the night in question, Leonard showed up at the home uninvited but with the knowledge that the children were home alone. He said he simply wanted to speak to her; she let him in, of course. Later, investigators would uncover sexually explicit messages sent to the child by Leonard who was eventually arrested for “online solicitation of a minor.” Leonard was allegedly there to try to have sex with the minor.
What We Need to Discuss:
- Kids and Public Transportation / Staying Home Alone. Based on reports, this 12-year-old was taking public transportation and staying home. While one might think that, in and of itself, is loaded with issues, we must take into account that many kids must rely on public transportation and have no choice but to stay home alone at times. The maturity of the child in question plays a huge role in these decisions and the conversations around those issues is critical.
- Important Conversations. This is a good reminder to tell kids about the many people they will interface with in the public and especially on public transportation or the many scenarios that they might find when home alone. Some key talking points are: Never share personal information with people you meet on public transportation,. When home alone, never open the door for anyone or invite people to your home who you only know from “online.” Remember, adults have no need to “enter a relationship with you.” It doesn’t matter what they are offering, what they are saying, how well they listen to you or how good they make you feel emotionally, adults - other than your parents and family - have no business trying to build relationships with you.
- Tell Someone. If there is an adult trying to engage with you online or in other manners, tell a trusted adult, immediately. Here’s an important point: even if your child has engaged in conversations or even started the interaction, it’s never a reason not to come to you when they feel uncomfortable.
- You Can’t Play their Game. The reality of these terrible scenarios is that children will be outsmarted, every time and every step of the way. Kids should never feel like they’ll be able to “handle” the conversations or the relationships with these adults seeking their attention. In this particular case, this 12-year-old is lucky her father came home when he did because this story could have ended up very differently. As these predators seek to get closer, children face tremendous dangers. Talk to them about this - what to do if people show up at home or at their schools... The interaction and skewed level of power makes these situations extremely dangerous.
- Remember the Stats: According to rainn.org, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult, according to an 2016 study. Eighty-two percent of all victims under 18 are female and females ages 16-19 are four times more likely be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. What does this really mean? The appetite for the abuse and sexual exploitation of minors is a reality; we have to do all we can to help others safeguard themselves.
I was speaking at a mom’s group just the other day and one of the moms asked me: The stories we are hearing, the stories being shared on the news, aren’t they just sensationalized and meant to scare us? Are the threats significant? It was an important question. Regardless of the headlines, the facts are the facts and we see them repeated often, in case after case, with children being targeted in the end. We have to start to understand the reach and dangers and importance of protecting our kids proactively - even if they are not the ones that stay alone or take public transportation, we have to talk to them proactively about all the many challenges that could potentially come their way. We are trying to do it daily but doing it together is the very best way. They deserve it.
Read past Sundays with Rania posts here. Find more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston on their website or follow them on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Comment below or email her at [email protected]. Rania is co-host of a weekly podcast which features interesting local and national guests who used their platforms for the good of the community. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter.
Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.
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