CLEVELAND-- Two Northeast Ohio men are facing federal charges after the U.S. Department of Justice said they sexually exploited children.
While the two cases are not related, federal officials are taking the opportunity to remind parents to be vigilant of their kids' activities online.
Eric Shotwell, 41, of Minerva, was charged with crossing state lines to engage in sexually explicit conduct with a minor. According to the Justice Department, police found a missing Missouri girl at his house on March 17.
The girl was reported missing days earlier and met Shotwell on the TextNow app. He picked the victim up from a pizza shop in Missouri and returned her to Minerva.
She told authorities Shotwell punched her, called her names and put chains around her neck until she passed out. Court documents said investigators found chains when they searched his bedroom.
In the second case, 58-year-old James D. Sullivan, of Cleveland, was charged with one count of attempted production child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.
Sullivan was arrested in July for recording women and girls in the shower at Geneva State Park. The Justice Department said agents found images of children being sexually assaulted on his laptop.
He was already on probation after serving more than 25 years in prison for raping a 12-year-old girl and recording the act.
The Department of Justice recommends that parents follow these tips:
- Talk to your kids about the topic from an early age and establish open lines of communication.
- Know what your child is looking at, and who they’re talking to.
- Think beyond “stranger danger” – as our relationships are more social-media focused, some kids don’t think of someone online as a stranger, even if they’ve never met in person.
- Parents should not be afraid to technology. Educate yourself about apps like kik and whisper, which allow users anonymity and don’t verify ages. And find out your child is using.
- Monitor your children’s use of the internet and their phone; keep your computer in an open, common room of the house.
- Tell your kids why it’s so important not to disclose personal information online.
- Check your kids’ profiles and what they post online.
- Report inappropriate activity to the web site or law enforcement immediately.
- Explain to your kids that once images are posted online they lose control of them and can never get them back.
- Only allow your kids to post photos or any type of personally identifying information on websites with your knowledge and consent.
- Trust your gut and parental intuition.