Police: Sexual Facebook messages, video chats launched Lapeer County investigation

At least four girls claim 35-year-old Jeremy Stiven sexually abused them a dozen times
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 4:49 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAPEER COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Police say sexual Facebook messages and video chats started police on a manhunt across several states for a Lapeer County man, ending with his arrest in the mountains of Arkansas.

Investigators say 35-year-old Jeremy Stiven later confessed to more than a dozen child sex incidents spanning a year and a half in Lapeer County, Genesee County and Alabama. He was arrested Nov. 4 in a mountainous area of the Ouachita National Forest in Montgomery County, Arkansas.

The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Stiven on Oct. 30, when parents of a 9-year-old girl brought some concerning Facebook messages to their attention.

“They were sexual. There were live video chats going on. Mainly text message conversation,” said Det. Sgt. Robert Wells.

He said the communication had been ongoing for several months. When authorities interviewed the young girl, Wells said they learned Stiven also sexually assaulted her.

However, Stiven just moved to live with his mom in Alabama. Police say he skipped town as soon as he learned he was under investigation.

“He armed himself with the .45-caliber pistol and left his mother’s house,” Wells said. “We didn’t really know where he was going. His mother thought he might be going to Alaska. But we started pinging his cell phone and we tracked him to that Oauchita National Forest in Arkansas.”

Wells obtained an arrest warrant for Stiven on Nov. 3 and contacted the local police in Arkansas, who started looking. Stiven’s cell phone pinged in the mountainous Ouachita National Forest, which is about 1.8 million acres.

“I had been told that he was suicidal and that he probably wasn’t going to go quietly and that he would likely commit suicide by cop,” Wells said. “So at that point, I’m concerned for many reasons.”

He started texting Stiven, encouraging him to turn himself in. Wells said their pings were only able to get within about 15 miles of Stiven’s cell phone.

Stiven then called Wells on Nov. 5.

“Right as I’m talking with him on speaker phone, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office rolls up right behind him and took him into custody,” Wells said.

Soon after Stiven’s arrest, Wells said three more victims came forward. All were young girls who were just 8 or 9 years old at the time it’s alleged Stiven sexually assaulted each of them -- a total of about a dozen times over a year and a half in Alabama and Michigan.

Wells said the victims were not random and Stiven knew each of them previously.

“Parents need to understand that the internet’s dangerous and this guy isn’t the only guy out there,” Wells said.

He advises parents to be nosy, pay attention to where kids are and what they are doing on their cell phones, tablets, laptops.

“There are apps out there that can let you know who your kids are talking to, what apps they’re downloading onto their phones. Lots of things like that,” Wells said. “That’s the way I would do it.”

Any parents with suspicions about their children’s activity online should not hesitate to call police, he said. He understands kids may be embarrassed or fearful their parents won’t listen to them.

“No two victims are the same and they may act totally different,” Wells said. “Some may act totally fine and some, it’ll be clear that there’s something wrong. You just have to know your child, and know that what their baseline behavior is like, and any, any deviation from that there may be something going on.”

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.