Although law enforcement has been praised for preventing a former Oakland Middle School student teacher from sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl, much of the credit is owed to her mother, according to officials with the Murfreesboro Police Department.
“She came straight to the police when she saw a disturbing message online,” Detective Tommy Roberts said Tuesday during an interview.
Without the mother’s quick thinking 35-year-old Chris Johnson, who has been charged with solicitation of a minor, might have succeeded in having sex with the victim at his Kubota Drive residence, he said.
“She has always monitored her child’s Facebook account,” said Roberts, who served as lead detective in the case. “Without her diligence, this situation could have turned out much worse.”
Johnson, who taught physical education, was arrested May 11 outside Carmike Cinema, located on Cason Square Boulevard, following an undercover investigation, according to a Police Department arrest report.
Detectives said Johnson believed he was meeting the victim at the movie theater so the two could have sex at his townhouse. In reality, however, Johnson was communicating with Roberts, who was given permission to take over the girl’s Facebook account.
“Every night when I would log (into the account) there would be multiple messages from Johnson,” Roberts reported, as part of his investigation. “This communication revealed that Johnson wanted the victim to come over to his house and have sex.”
He said during the six-day undercover operation, Johnson expressed interest in wanting the victim to spend the night.
“The victim was to ask her mom to spend the night with a friend,” Roberts reported, “and have her mother drop her off at the movie theater, and the victim was to get in his car and (ride) to his house, where she was to spend the night and have sex with him.”
When Johnson arrived at the movie theater, however, he was quickly apprehended by Roberts, Detective Wayne Lawson, Officer Palmer Gibbs and Officer Michael Levy, all of who had been waiting for his arrival.
“Everyone who helped in this investigation did a wonderful job executing the sting operation,” Roberts said, adding law enforcement officials had already obtained a search warrant, which was immediately conducted on the night of Johnson’s arrest.
During a search of his vehicle, detectives found several items Johnson had purchased for the encounter, including “two boxes of Skittles, a pink blow dryer, and strawberries and whip cream,” he said.
When law enforcement officials arrived at his residence, they also found “additional evidence that Johnson had planned and wanted to have sex with the victim,” Roberts reported.
After being interviewed at the Police Department, Johnson was booked into the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, where he was later released on a $100,000 bond.
Roberts said the evidence collected at Johnson’s residence indicates it is possible there could be other victims, noting his demeanor during the Police Department interview was worrisome.
“Based on my experience, there is no way this is the first time he ever tried to mess around with a young girl,” Roberts said, adding he has already received some information about the possibility of additional victims.
He said Johnson seemed too experienced, as if he chose to become a teacher so that children would be easily accessible.
“The conversations we had through Facebook were very disturbing, which is why I am so glad she immediately alerted us,” Roberts said, referring to the girl’s mother. “Parents need to be involved with their children’s online activities – know what they are doing.”