Springfield man indicted for child sexual exploitation; experts advise how to keep your kids safe online

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 9:02 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2021 at 8:24 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield man accused of contacting hundreds of children through a teen dating website was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 14 on child sexual exploitation charges.

Kody Ryan Kelso, 30, was charged in a five-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield. The superseding indictment replaces the original indictment that was filed on June 23 and includes additional charges. Kelso has been detained without bond since his arrest on June 16.

The indictment charges Kelso with the sexual exploitation of a child to produce child pornography and with using the internet and cell phone to induce a child under the age of 14 to engage in illicit sexual activity, both of which are related to an undercover law enforcement operation in the United Kingdom in which officers posed as a child.

Investigators say Kelso used an online service named My LOL, a teen dating site with chat features, to contact a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, but in reality, was an undercover law enforcement officer in the United Kingdom. Investigators say Kelso asked her to have sexual intercourse with him and to send him nude images.

Federal investigators say Kelso contacted more than 560 additional individual MyLOL users between Jan. 7 and Feb. 21, 2021. Each user was between the age of 13 and 17. In numerous instances, according to investigators. Kelso attempted to discuss sexual topics with these users and request sexual images.

KY3 looked up the app MyLOL and found it was removed from the app store for both iPhones and Androids. However, there are reports in the past showing the app had been removed from the app store and then added back later.

Drury University’s assistant professor of cybersecurity Shannon McMurtrey says that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to download it.

”If they’re on iOS, everything has to be downloaded through the app store,” McMurtrey says. “If they’re using an Android phone, they can download apps from a lot of different places.”

McMurtrey says it’s not just dating apps or social media that parents need to be aware of.

“Even games can be used by predators to groom kids and can really be dangerous,” McMurtrey says.

That’s why it’s important to have open conversations about what apps they are using. McMurtrey also recommends parents have their kids’ usernames and passwords.

“I’m a big believer in privacy but not when it comes to kids and the internet,” McMurtrey says. “I think parents need to be really involved in everything kids are doing online.”

Shannon Coleman says as a grandma, it’s concerning how easily kids have access to anything and anyone online.

“I have special needs grandkids so it’s real easy for them to get sucked in and not realize they’ve been sucked in by something they can’t get out of or don’t know how to get out of or don’t know how to get ahold of an adult who can help them,” Coleman says.

Because of that, Coleman has open conversations with her kids about monitoring social media usage.

In her house, monitoring what they’re doing online is crucial.

“Pedophiles and people like that behind the scenes are really good at masking what they’re doing and who they’re talking to and how they get ahold of these kids so yeah it’s a huge concern,” Coleman says.

McMurtrey says it’s important for parents to educate themselves on the apps their kids are using.

“Just to understand their world, understand what they’re using, what’s important to them and how they’re using it,” McMurtrey says. “Then let that turn into real world conversations where you’re building that relationship and that bond so that if they make a friend on line and there is something that starts to turn questionable or dangerous, they come to you first.”

It’s not just about monitoring what your kids are doing online, but also how that impacts them in the real world.

“Unfortunately predators will pose as kids and try to lure kids with friendships,” McMurtrey says. “Eventually they’ll try to set up live, in-person meetings and that’s obviously when it’s the most scary.”

Another tip for parents is McMurtrey says they should use the screen time feature on phones.

“You want to pay attention to what they’re doing online,” McMurtrey says. “Share with them that you’re going to do the same thing. I’m turning this on for me and letting that be the initial conversation about how much time and attention online consumes and what we can do to take back control of that.”

The indictment also charges Kelso with one count of the sexual exploitation of a child victim to produce child pornography, one count of using the internet and cell phone to induce a second child victim under the age of 14 to engage in illicit sexual activity, and one count of receiving and distributing child pornography.

In addition to the information from the United Kingdom, investigators received two Cybertips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Kelso’s online activity and posting a child pornography video online.

On June 16, 2021, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Kelso’s apartment and he was arrested. Officers seized multiple electronic devices.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Wan. It was investigated by the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations.

Kelso is being held in the Greene County Jail without bond.

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