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A warning to parents: Older men seeking young girls on Web is increasing

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24 2013 5:30 p.m. MDT

A growing trend of older men seeking younger girls on social media has law enforcers, child advocates and parents concerned.

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ALPINE — Indica Huddleston is 16.

But even her mother admits the pretty girl with long brown hair and olive skin could easily pass for 20 in some of her pictures. And like many teen girls, Indica is flattered when a boy — or even a man in his 20s — makes nice comments about her looks, her mother says.

"She just thinks, 'Wow, I'm getting all this attention. All these guys want to be my friend,'" Andrea Huddleston said.

For a week, the Huddlestons feared their daughter was in danger, perhaps running off with a man she met on Facebook who she thought was a friend but was really just a predator.

"You and I both know that who you see (on Facebook) is not who you're getting, necessarily," Huddleston said. "I know that could be anybody trying to friend me. But a 16-year-old, they just have a teenage brain. They just don't think it's going to happen to them. They want to think that cute guy is their friend."

Friday evening, law enforcers announced that Indica had been found safe in Salt Lake County and was reunited with her family.

"She's doing very well. We're not supposed to say much about where she's been, but we do know she left the state," Huddleston said Saturday.

Details about where Indica had been for a week or how she was found were not released Saturday. But it appeared that law enforcers actually found Indica as opposed to her returning home or contacting authorities.

"We know for sure there were other people involved," the girl's mother said.

Both local and federal agencies are involved in the investigation. Huddleston believed at least one person was being questioned as of Friday night.

Indica left a note on Aug. 16 indicating she had run away. Her mother believed one of the keys to finding her daughter would be Facebook, where her daughter had been spending a lot of time prior to her disappearance.

Indica had 1,550 Facebook friends, and at least 1,000 of them could be considered persons of interest, her mother told the Deseret News prior to her daughter being found.

"I didn't know she was talking to the kind of people she was talking to," Huddleston said. "I should have done a better job of monitoring, but I didn't."

But what Huddleston has since learned about her daughter's online activity caused her to lose sleep for a week.

The Huddlestons discovered that one of the men their daughter was friends with on Facebook was "absolutely a predator," though he is not believed to have been involved in this case.

"It's clear that she was heading down a road that was extremely dangerous with a predator that was an affiliate with a sex trafficking organization," Huddleston said.

And it's likely it wasn't just one man posing as someone else on Facebook, she said.

"Definitely we know there were bogus profiles," Huddleston said. "(There is) all this evidence that she thinks she's talking to one person and it's clearly not that person."

"She was lucky," family spokeswoman Tessa White added. "And a lot of girls don't get that lucky under those circumstances."

Social media predators

Younger girls getting together with much older men and then being abused is a growing problem, said Rod Layton, director of the Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center.

"We see a lot of those cases," he said.

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