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HURRICANE — A 21-year-old southern Utah man has been accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl he met on a dating app.
Conor William Sunderland, of Hurricane, was arrested Thursday and charged on Friday in 5th District Court with rape of a child, a first-degree felony.
A 13-year-old girl told police she and Sunderland met on an undisclosed social media app "and then started seeing each other." The two had intercourse twice, once after seeing a movie together and once while camping, according to a police booking affidavit.
When questioned by police, Sunderland said he thought the girl was at least 18, the affidavit states.
Hurricane police said in a prepared statement that Sunderland met the girl on a "social media/dating app" that requires users to be at least 18. Police used the case as an example to parents to monitor their children's social media activities.
"If you ever needed a reason to be more involved in your children's lives and keeping an eye on their cellphone usage, here it is!" police stated. "Please educate your children about potential dangers when it comes to social media."
According to Utah law, a child under the age of 14 cannot consent to having sex. In this case, even if the girl went on a dating app claiming she was 18, police say that does not give the defendant an excuse.
"There's no defense to stating you did not know the age of a person if you're going to involve yourself in sexual conduct with them," said Hurricane police officer Dan Raddatz.
Raddatz said for people who meet on dating apps, it might not be a bad idea to verify a person's age before engaging in sexual activity in order to avoid being placed in a risky situation.
Police departments in other counties have investigated similar cases in recent years. In 2016, two men were arrested in separate cases after picking up the same 12-year-old girl from her middle school. Both men said they met the girl on a dating app and believed she was 18. One man was convicted of kidnapping and sex abuse of a child and the other of obstructing justice.