A man pleaded guilty to one federal charge related to grooming underage girls online, including making one girl attempt to kill her parents and another girl to harm herself.
Matthew Christian Locher, 31, faces 15 to 30 years in prison for one count of sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing a sexually explicit visual depiction, according to an official statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Locher admitted to committing his atrocious acts while living in Redondo Beach, California, between 2020 and 2021. He said that he would search for young girls who were suffering from mental health issues including suicidal thoughts, depression, and anorexia.
“Locher groomed his victims to engage in self-mutilation and instructed a victim struggling with an eating disorder to starve herself, ordering her to film herself cutting her body when she disobeyed him,” the statement said.
Prosecutors said two victims sent him photographs of self-harm and another victim tried to burn down her home in Ohio in an attempt to kill her parents on his orders. That girl was 12 years old at the time and was to run away to California to have sex with the man.
Locher moved to Indiana after authorities searched his home but he was arrested in Indiana in January and sent back to California. He will be sentenced in January.
Experts have cautioned parents to be mindful of what their children are doing online and monitor their messages from strangers on apps and online forums.
In one case from 2021, a 13-year-old was saved by police from a motel in Edgewater, Florida, after she left school to meet a man she had met online. 24-year-old Tyler Thompson was convicted in August of various sex charges and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Here’s more about the Edgewater abduction:
Volusia deputy rescues missing girl at motel: 2/18/21