Zoe's Story
Zoe’s dad worked for a rancher in the state. When she was thirteen, he decided to leave the ranch and took a job in Casper, Zoe and her brothers were “glad/sad”. It was exciting to think they would make friends who would live closer. On the other hand, it  would be hard to leave the livestock and, especially the horses. But then again, the new house was big enough for everyone to have their own room! They were each filled with lots of different thoughts about the move.

After the move, all three children seemed to settle in nicely. They made friends quickly. “Their friends were the kind of kids every parent wants their children to have,” explained Zoe’s mom. “We had been worried the transition would be difficult, but it really seemed to be working out well.” Zach, the oldest boy, signed up for football. Zane, the middle child, who had never been interested in sports, quickly got involved in chess club. Zoe, the youngest, struggled a little to find her place in a bigger school. She eventually got involved in theater with her new best friend.

It was Zane who first realized something was different about Zoe. She and Zane had always been close and suddenly she was spending less time with him and more time isolating in her room. “We figured it was just teenage stuff. Afterall, Zoe’s grades were excellent, and we knew all the friends she brought home with her. If anything, she seemed to be thriving. Then we got the visit.”

A Natrona County Sheriff's Office deputy contacted Zoe’s parents informing them that during an unrelated investigation photos and videos of a child thought to be Zoe had been seized. “We didn’t understand something as harmless as kid’s pictures and videos would be a concern.” The deputy did his best to gently describe the content. “He was really kind and patient…it took us a while to understand.”

Zoe had been taking nude pictures of herself and sending them, along with sexualized behavior on video, to a boyfriend she had met online. The “boyfriend” was a 57-year-old man posing as a 14-year-old. “We were horrified, angry, embarrassed, and scared.” The deputy explained the next steps in the investigation, beginning with a Children's Advocacy Project interview.

The forensic interview was conducted at the Children's Advocacy Project by an interviewer specially trained to introduce evidence in an interview. Zoe was cooperative and forthcoming about her online boyfriend and the images. Sanitized images of Zoe, provided by the deputy, were used during the interview to gain clarification and assisted Zoe in providing concrete details. In addition, Zoe identified two friends she had introduced to him online. From the evidence and Zoe’s interview, investigators were able to not only prosecute the perpetrator based on Zoe’s disclosure, but also with evidence found relating to one of the two friends.

Zoe began counseling within a week of her forensic interview. Meanwhile, the investigators catalogued materials seized while conducting search warrants at the man’s Casper home. Equipped with evidence and the disclosures, the suspect was arrested and, during questioning confessed to soliciting and distributing child pornography obtained from more than ten under aged victims. Prosecutors working with the Natrona County Sheriff's Office and the Children's Advocacy Project continue to successfully prosecute crimes against children based on evidence collected thanks in part to the interviewer’s work with Zoe.

Zoe continues to participate in counseling for the foreseeable future, bravely confronting her feelings of shame and guilt. Her parents are also attending counseling to address their own issues of anger and self-blame. “I mean, we’re her parents. We should have known. It’s our job to protect her.” No crime happens in a vacuum. Child victims, their families, and even friends can be greatly impacted. Thanks to non-profits like the Children’s Advocacy Project, services are available to those impacted.