The Spokesman-Review has a story this morning about a man arrested on suspicion of stalking a 15-year-old girl he allegedly met while playing the online game, Halo.
The man flew from upstate New York to Spokane to see the girl.
You might remember that we’ve had our own case of Internet stalking that reporter Sean Robinson wrote about earlier this year. In the Pierce County case, the suspect found his victim in the World of Warcraft.
See his story below.
CORRECTION: 10/31/2007 – A front-page story Oct. 21 contained inaccurate information about the legal status of a Canadian man suspected of stalking a Spanaway Lake High School student through an online fantasy game. Justin Gregory MacIntyre was charged Sept. 11 with stalking, a gross misdemeanor, in Pierce County District Court. He pleaded guilty to one count of harassment and was later released to federal immigration authorities.
She thought she knew Vera. It wasn’t Vera
A 16-year-old girl at Spanaway Lake High enjoys the elements of an online fantasy game: Chatting with others, creating a character, battling monsters. Then a mysterious visitor shows up at her school.
By Sean Robinson
The News Tribune
In World of Warcraft, an online fantasy game played by millions, it takes about 18 minutes to sprint across a virtual continent.
In the real world, it takes about 13 hours to drive 720 miles from Calgary, Alberta, to the parking lot of Spanaway Lake High School. The trip gets longer if you count burger stops, gas-ups and a bureaucratic pause at the U.S.-Canada border.
Pierce County court records say a 20-year-old Canadian Warcraft player made the trek in September. Armed with odd gifts, an outdated college catalog and a car full of liquor, he tried to hook up with a 16-year-old girl he’d beguiled for nine months.
The trip ended with an arrest and added a new creature to the bestiary of online horrors: the Warcraft stalker.
In the game, the Canadian man posed as a woman, calling himself “veraj.” His real name is Justin Michael Gregory-MacIntyre. On Sept. 10, the day of his arrest, he told his story to a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy and admitted his deception.
A search warrant affidavit recounts the incident in detail.
When the student arrived at school that Monday morning, she was called to the front office and told a man was waiting to talk to her about college. It was Gregory-MacIntyre. The girl had no idea who he was.
“Justin introduced himself as Greg, and told her he was Vera’s best friend,” the affidavit states.
The student knew Vera. Vera was the Canadian college student she’d met on Warcraft and MySpace, the social networking Web site. Vera was in her Warcraft guild. She was the friend who talked about fashion and Calgary College and how much fun it was to party there.
Pushing the Vera connection, Gregory-MacIntyre handed the girl a passel of presents, “including his car keys, a tank top, a cocktail book, ‘The OC’ season one DVD box set and some pictures,” the affidavit states.
The girl didn’t understand why he was giving her his car keys. She tried to give them back. Gregory-MacIntyre told her he had another set, and asked her to meet him at lunch.
When the girl and two friends came back to the parking lot at lunchtime, Gregory-MacIntyre was there. He said he didn’t know how he was going to get back to Canada. He tried to give the girl a brand-new laptop computer.
He stayed in the parking lot all day. The girl and her friends kept checking to see if he was still there. Finally, they talked to a football coach, who called the school office. A principal called the sheriff’s deputy.
When the deputy interviewed Gregory-MacIntyre, he gradually revealed his scheme. He said he met the girl in the Warcraft game.
“He said she wanted to get to know him outside of the game, but that compromised who he really was,” the affidavit states. “Between questions, Justin would ramble on about how he had just come to see (the girl) and deliver the package to her and how he now had to face the consequences.”
More details tumbled out. Gregory-MacIntyre admitted he called himself Vera on MySpace.
“His picture on Myspace is a picture of a female and he has never told (the girl) that he was actually a man,” the affidavit states. “I asked Justin if Vera was an actual person that he knew. He said that she was. I asked him if the real Vera knew (the girl.) He said that she did not. I asked Justin if Vera was a friend of his. He said that she was.”
By now, Gregory-MacIntyre was handcuffed. The deputy left him and began questioning the girl. She was crying.
“I asked (her) if Vera had ever talked about Justin. She said that she had not. I asked her if she was expecting a package from Justin. She said that she was not,” the affidavit states.
“I asked her if she realized Justin was actually Vera. She said that she did not and immediately started crying again. She appeared afraid and asked how she could know that Justin would not return to the school or otherwise track her down.”
When deputies searched Gregory-MacIntyre’s car, they found two computers, a camera, a framed photo of the girl and four unopened bottles of champagne, vodka, cognac and rum.
Further searching uncovered what looked like another lie, according to the affidavit. In the car was a piece of paper with the name “Vera” and a Canadian phone number. The deputy called it.
A man answered and said he was Vera’s stepfather. Vera had been having problems with someone posing as her on one of the social Web sites.
He couldn’t remember which. Vera was away at college in Ontario.
When the deputy took him to the patrol car, Gregory-MacIntyre didn’t want to get in at first. He turned and asked if he could write an apology. The deputy told him to sit down. He didn’t.
“I placed my hand on his chest and pushed him into the back seat of the car,” the affidavit states. “I rolled down the window and turned on the air conditioning. Justin was booked into the Pierce County Jail for Stalking.”
Gregory-MacIntyre won’t face criminal charges in Pierce County. After his arrest, sheriff’s deputies handed him over to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was transferred to the federal immigration detention center on the Tacoma Tideflats and charged with immigration violations.
He’s awaiting deportation, and not fighting it, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Friday.
The News Tribune attempted to locate Gregory-MacIntyre’s lawyer but was unsuccessful. Calls to his phone number in Canada were not returned.
Speaking through school district officials, the girl declined The News Tribune’s request for comment. Mark Wenzel, spokesman for the Bethel School District, said the incident should serve as one more example of the dangers that lurk online, even in games.
“We sometimes see the consequences of online activity at home come to school,” he said. “That’s what happened in this particular incident. This has become, across the state, a school issue.
“We take an assertive stance in trying to communicate with our students and with parents about the importance of staying safe and the importance of good judgment when online.”