CROWN WANTS CHILD LURER TO SPEND 6-7 YEARS BEHIND BARS AFTER GUILTY PLEA
VERNON - Planned and predatory are the words Crown counsel used to describe the actions of a man who lured Okanagan girls over the Internet and asked them for nude photographs.
David Clayton Willerth, born in 1974, pleaded guilty to 18 of 25 counts, including luring children over the computer and arranging a sexual offense against a child. The charges stem from conversations he had with a total of 16 known victims between the ages of 12 to 16.
Crown counsel Shirley Meldrum said Willerth created a Facebook profile under a fake name and posed as a modeling agent. He friended numerous girls, and made further connections by contacting the friends listed on their profiles once he “had an in.” He used at least one girl to recruit others, asking her send out a message saying he was a legitimate modeling agent. He said he would pay her to do so.
Willerth instructed the girls to send nude photographs and told them they could earn $3,000 to $5,000 as models. He persistently asked them what they would do to become models. One girl who tried to terminate communications with him said she felt harassed and scared for her safety.
He attempted to meet a number of the girls, telling one exactly what she should wear to the planned meet and saying he would give her $80. None of the girls ever showed.
“Granted, he didn’t meet any of the girls but it definitely wasn’t for lack of trying,” Meldrum said.
Eventually, two 14-year-olds told their parents what was happening, and police were alerted. Authorities tracked the IP address to Willerth’s residence in Vernon and he was arrested in July 2013. At the time, Willerth was already under court order not to use the Internet for purposes other than work and was forbidden from engaging in activity with females under 18. Those conditions came from a 2012 conviction for impersonating his ex-girlfriend for sexual purposes. He was also convicted of criminal harassment in relation to a girl under 18.
Meldrum asked Supreme Court Justice Peter Voith to consider a six- to seven-year jail sentence plus designation on the Sexual Offender Registry. She said the sentence must reflect denunciation and deterrence of the crime and added the sheer number of victims and the fact that Willerth’s actions were ‘planned’ and ‘predatory’ aggravated the offense. In a pre-sentence report, Willerth stated he ‘thought he could get away with it’ and indicated what he learned from his prior offense was to use a fake name. According to a risk assessment, Willerth is at a moderate to high risk of reoffending.
Willerth’s lawyer David Johnson is asking for a jail sentence of three years in a federal prison where his client can access counselling. He said a mitigating factor is that Willerth pleaded guilty and saved the victims the stress of a trial.
Seven of Willerth’s charges were stayed, including one count of accessing child pornography, one count of making or publishing child pornography, three counts of invitation to sexual touching under 16, one count of obtaining sexual services of a person under 18, and one count of criminal harassment.
Willerth’s wife, mother and two sisters were in court to support him.
“I just want to say I’m sorry to everyone I hurt and I want help, I do," he said through tears when asked. "I want to go where I can get help and fix myself so I can come back out and become a contributing member of society and never be back here again.”
Justice Voith expects to deliver his sentence Friday morning.
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