The Catch a Predator … In Canadian County

Keeping kids safe in shadows of worldwide web

Child advocate Roo Powell, founder of the nonprofit Safe from Online Sex Abuse, looks at footage of an arrest.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series looking behind the scenes of how Canadian County law enforcement works to find and stop online predators of children. 

By Glen Miller
El Reno Tribune

For the better part of his 35-year career as an educator, Craig McVay thought he had a good grasp on how to keep students safe from the evils lurking in the shadows on the worldwide web.

“As a matter of fact, I thought I did,” McVay said. “As a coach, teacher, principal and then superintendent, I had confidence that I could keep all the kids under my care safe.

“If you ask any of my former students, they would say they had a safe place in any of my programs.”

However, McVay said his eyes were opened to the deep secrets and tricks used by online predators to lure children into sexual exploitation.

“I attended a seminar in the spring of 2013 that really opened my eyes to what kids are capable of finding on their own without our supervision. The world had really changed,” McVay said.

The seminar was put on by Major Adam Flowers, who heads up the Canadian County Sheriff Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit – or ICAC.

“I’ve been putting on those seminars since 2013,” Flowers said. “I do them about four or five times a year, depending on who wants to host them, and they last about an hour and a half to two hours.”

He says the seminars are open to parents, children, grandparents, educators and anyone wanting to know more about Internet safety for youth. Flowers said the content can be shocking.

“I show them what to look for as far as signs that either an adult or other teenagers may be sexting and how that can spiral into sexual abuse,” Flowers said. “There are kids that will blackmail other teenagers into forms of sexual exploitation.”.

McVay was shocked.

“I tried to keep up with the trends, especially with how they affected students and their access to the Internet and I thought I was on top of that,” McVay said. “While attending the seminar, he showed many apps that can conceal what a person was able to get onto over the Internet.

“There are fake apps that they (kids) are putting on their phones that look like a normal clock app to parents. Behind that app was a chat room where students were talking with each other or even predators and not even know it.”

The Child Crime Prevention and Safety Center estimates online predators to number around 500,000. Their targets are children ages 12 to 15 years old, who are deemed the most susceptible to being groomed or manipulated into sexual exploitation.

Canadian County Sheriff’s Maj. Adam Flowers looks over a video.

More than a fourth of those Internet predators will ask a child for sexually explicit photos, while 4% will seek aggressive solicitations or in-person contact.

Flowers uses one of his former cases as an example.

In 2014, Flowers and the ICAC unit arrested Mike Goddard, who was pretending to be a female via a fake Facebook profile. He was targeting boys between the ages of 14 and 15 years old and getting them to send nude photos.

Flowers said once the photos were obtained, Goddard would reveal himself as a man and blackmail those boys into in-person meetings.

“He would tell those boys he would post the photos on the Internet if they didn’t do what he wanted,” Flowers said. “We believe there were hundreds of victims. He was very hands-on and would take those boys back to his apartment in Mustang and exploit them.”

The scheme came to light when a mother of a Yukon 14-year-old found the photos of her son that had been sent to Goddard. She immediately contacted Flowers and the CCSO.


Flowers said the Goddard case is a perfect example of why parents should be proactive when it comes to their children and the use of electronics on the Internet.

Unsure where to start?

Flowers suggests the parental controls available on electronic communication devices as the first step. Then seek out apps such as “OurPact” which work over cross-platforms.

“It allows you to monitor text and chat room interactions. You can lock the phone during certain times of the day and set the amount of time the device can be used per day. There are a host of apps like that out there,” Flowers said.

Regular phone inspections, Flowers said, is essential.

“Check your child’s phone and educate yourself on the apps they are downloading,” he said. “You can do a Google search if you don’t know what the app does.

“It’s important that you don’t just give your child a device and say, ‘here you go.’ You don’t have to be an expert, just educate yourself.”

Flowers says staying informed on changes to popular apps such as Snapchat is another weapon.

“Most parents don’t know that Snapchat has a hidden photo feature called ‘My Eyes Only’ which is a photo vault. It allows them to store and share photos and it’s password protected,” Flowers said.

Phone inspections should include checking the photos and text messages your teenagers send or receive.

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show 89% of sexual advances directed at children occur in Internet chat rooms or instant messaging agencies.

Flowers does not like social media platforms but says parental interactions can make using those apps safer for teenagers.

“I’m not a fan of social media but I know it’s not practical to stay off it,” he said. “Parents need to be proactive. It’s not a 100% fix-all, but parents should look at their kids’ phones and not just expect an app to do the parenting.”



According to Online Predator Statistics, there is an attack every 39 seconds and 20% of children are sexually solicited over the Internet. In 75% of cases reported, the child did not tell a parent and 90 percent of parents never knew.

Child advocate and mother Roo Powell, founder of the nonprofit Safe from Online Sex Abuse or SOSA, says calm communication between teenagers and parents can be a valuable tool.

“Parents need to make sure they are the type of adults that their kids can go to. The one thing I want for my children is that whenever there is a situation or something like this happens, that they can come to me instead of being scared to tell mom because she will be mad and blame them.

“I want them to always come to me. I want us to have regular conversations about online safety,” Powell said.

She agrees with Flowers that knowledge of phone apps is a must.

“When I’m teaching kids, I tell them never talk with someone online that you have not met in real life,” Powell said. “There are chat features in different apps and you need to know how and who they are talking to. Download the same app and know its functionality.”

Powell said predators are doing the same research.

“Perpetrators will intentionally use apps like Roblox, Minecraft, Words with Friends and even coloring books and drawing games,” she said. “Parents should not just assume it’s a safe app because if there is a way to reach out through an app, they probably already have tried it.”

Powell said it’s important not to blame children if they are victimized online.

“Have the relationship to where they feel they can come to you. Don’t be the parent that gets mad and shows victim-blame,” Powell said.

Flowers agrees but says victims should know there are consequences on both sides.

“I would never blame or belittle a child for what they have done,” he said. “Don’t victim-blame, but parents should have set consequences for their child.”


Flowers and Powell both said children being victimized online will show signs, and parents that educate themselves will know.

“Parents that monitor should pick up on the little clues and catch it,” Flowers said.

Those signs, Flowers said, are:

  • Being secretive with their phone.
  • Staying up all night.
  • Changing clothing and hairstyles with a sexual overtone.
  • Locking their phone.
  • Taking their phone to the bathroom or private room for long periods.