New database lists online predators

keyboard »Play Video
There's a new way to expose online predators and protect kids on the Web.

Some local parents have created a virtual Internet block watch. It's a free Web site that exposes the bad guys and their bad screen names.

Through typed words like "you have beautiful eyes" and "you're such a great person," an online relationship between Megan Meier and a boy formed.

She thought his name was Josh. She thought he lived in her neighborhood and she thought he had a crush on her. But when his online affection soured and compliments turned to insults, Megan was confused and hurt.

"I really can't say them on camera," said mother Tina Meier.

Her parents are convinced Megan was so traumatized it killed her. The 13 year old put a belt around her neck and hanged herself in her bedroom closet.

"I grabbed her by one arm and the closet rack by the other and yanked it all down. Tina ran and got a knife and cut the belt from her neck and started performing CPR," said victim's father Ron Meier. "And (I) was begging her to breathe again."

Nearly two months after her death, Megan's parents were told by a a neighbor that Josh was really an adult woman, a parent who created the fake online profile to gain Megan's trust and learn what Megan was saying about her daughter.

"We're still grieving over our daughter's death," said Tina.

One dad in Redmond, meanwhile, is taking action.

"If we can prevent anyone from getting hurt that would be our main goal," said Ernest Villamore.

Villamore heard about Megan and worried about his own daughter, Alexis.

Alexis is hooked on internet games with chat rooms. She chats with other players who are identified only by their screen names. Ernest and his wife thought it was pretty innocent until one of the players told Alexis he was 42.

"For a 42-year-old man to be playing a child's game just because - it makes no sense to me," Villamore said.

"It makes me more aware that I have to see what she's doing," said Deena Villamore, Alexis' mother.

"With all these online predator crimes being so rampant, I try not to think that far, it's a real bad place to go," Ernest said.

Out of frustration and fear came an idea.

Ernest and his business partner Jason Thurston put their tech-savvy heads together and created, a database parents can use to zero in on suspect screen names children should stay away from.

The site posts reviews on screen names. It's akin to a movie review. Most are posted by other online users who had a bad experience and want to warn others. With each screen name review comes a sample of their online chats.

"It can get really dirty or nasty, if you want it call it that," Ernest said.

Take Fanfest 2004, for example. The name may sound innocuous enough, but a search of the new database reveals a conversation in which Fanfest, a 30 year old, describes what he wants to do sexually with a 7-year-old girl.

"People need to have a resource to find out about these individuals - are they who they say they are?" said Jason Thurston.

Megan Meier's parents insist had she known who she was talking to, she'd still be alive.

The creators of the new database admit their site is not a perfect fix; there's nothing stopping the bad-guys from changing their screen name.

"We may not be able to stop that person every time, but because they may find out their screen name is being used on a site like this it may scare them in the future from doing it again," Thurston said.

"They'll end up in our database sooner or later," said Ernest.

Ultimately banks on what predators fear most - exposure. The site is meant for parents since it contains some graphic content. The site also includes other tips for keeping kids safe online and also reviews screen names for online daters.