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Utah 'sexual predator' targeted young girls on social media, charges say

A St. George man was charged Friday with soliciting explicit pictures and videos from young girls across the country.

A St. George man was charged Friday with soliciting explicit pictures and videos from young girls across the country. (Zolnierek, Shutterstock)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

ST. GEORGE — A man who prosecutors call a "sexual predator" now faces criminal charges accusing him of soliciting explicit photos from children.

Johnathan Paul Sperry, 25, of St. George, was charged Friday in 5th District Court with six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony, and dealing in harmful materials to a minor, a third-degree felony.

Sperry contacted girls across the nation, some as young as 11 years old, and solicited explicit pictures and videos from them, according to charging documents.

"Sperry has repeatedly manipulated minor females into recording themselves engaged in sexual acts. Sperry often directed his victims to perform specific acts for him. Sperry's captured internet behavior demonstrates he is a sexual predator," the charging documents state.

The investigation began in March when detectives from the Auburn Police Department in Indiana looked at an 11-year-old girl's Snapchat account on her phone and found a person with the username "Groovydragon" requesting graphic videos from her. Police served a search warrant on Groovydragon's Snapchat account, and after linking the account to Sperry, turned that information over to the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the charges state.

"In the Snapchat records, I found graphic sexual conversations between Sperry and multiple other juvenile females. Sperry engaged in this conduct while he lived in Salt Lake County and continued the criminal conduct when he moved to Washington County in mid-January 2022," the lead investigator alleges in court documents.

In February, Sperry contacted another girl on Snapchat who also said she was 11 and he solicited pictures and videos from her, the charges state.

On Tuesday, when investigators served a search warrant at Sperry's residence, they found him wearing only underwear and his Snapchat account was "on and active," according to the charges.

"This investigation is ongoing, and I have reason to believe further investigation will lead to identification of additional victims," the arresting officer wrote.

Prosecutors have requested that Sperry be held in jail without bail pending trial. If he is allowed bail, prosecutors have requested that he not be allowed to have access to the internet and be forced to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News

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