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Harris deputies: Suspect flew to Houston to meet boy | Front page | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
Harris deputies: Suspect arrested after flying to meet boy
By MIKE GLENN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 25, 2009, 4:12PM
Harris County Constables Office, Pct 4
Steven Donald Anderson was charged Saturday with two counts of online solicitation of a child. He is in the Harris County Jail with bail set at $100,000 for each charge. He was arrested Friday after flying in from Minnesota to meet a Harris County youth, officials said.
A pilot for a Minnesota-based airline remains in Harris County Jail, charged with solicitation of a minor after flying to Houston to meet a 12-year-old boy he had been sending sexually-explicit text messages to since last fall, authorities said.
Deputies were waiting when Steven Donald Anderson, 28, pulled up to the youth's northwest Harris County home Friday, authorities said today.
"He showed up and we arrested him. He was pretty shocked," said Sgt. Gary Spurger, with the Harris County Precinct 4 constable's computer crime unit.
After deputies examined a cache of incriminating text messages found on Anderson's cell phone, Harris County prosecutors on Saturday charged him with two counts of online solicitation of a minor, officials said.
The investigation began Thursday when the boy's teacher at Spillane Middle School caught him sending text messages on his BlackBerry during class, officials said. She took away the device and read some of the messages investigators said Anderson had sent to the boy.
"He was saying, 'Don't be nervous. Everything is going to be okay. I'm going down there Friday afternoon,'" Spurger said.
Alarmed by what she read, the teacher reported the incident to school authorities, who notified police.
"The teacher saved that kid," Spurger said. "She stepped up to the plate and took care of business."
Anderson and the boy had been exchanging text messages since meeting on a MySpace account soon after Halloween, investigators said.
With the consent of his parents, investigators later Thursday assumed the boy's identity and contacted Anderson through the online account. They exchanged messages for about 30 minutes and confirmed Anderson would be arriving in Houston on Friday.
With the boy safely away from the home, almost a dozen deputies awaited Anderson's arrival.
"He even told us what kind of car he was going to drive, which made it really easy," Spurger said.
Investigators said Anderson denied any sexual interest in the boy, whom he thought was 14.
"He claimed he was coming here for a vacation," Spurger said. "He just wanted to come visit his friend."
Investigators do not believe there is an innocent explanation for Anderson's trip to the Houston area, particularly after going through the text messages on the man's cell phone.
"What could a 28-year-old professional airline pilot have in common with a 14-year-old?" Spurger said.
Spurger said Anderson is a pilot for Mesaba Airlines, a commuter company owned by Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines.
Harris County investigators are contacting authorities in Minnesota to arrange a search of his home and computer, officials said.
Anderson remains in the Harris County Jail where bail has been set at $100,000 for each charge.