WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A Florida mother who found nude photos of an adult man on her 11-year-old son’s phone traced the number back to Tyler Smither, a youth minister in New Hanover County arrested on Dec. 2 on an indecent liberties with a child charge.
According to an affidavit requesting a search warrant in the case, the mother, who has parental control on her son’s phone, received an email from Verizon on Nov. 20 stating a new number was contacting her son’s phone. She found the nude photos after taking her son’s phone.
A search of the phone number on Facebook linked to 30-year-old Smither’s profile. The mother then contacted Reverend Russell Nanney after discovering he worked at Harbor United Methodist Church. He confirmed the number was Smither’s.
Nanney then called the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, who in turn made contact with the mother.
The mother told investigators her son was first contacted by Smither on a website called Omegle, a website that allows you to talk to strangers, and that her son and Smither began Skyping and sending “pornographic” photos to one another through texts, according to the court document. “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful,” is posted on Omegle’s main page.
A Tampa detective processed the boy’s phone and sent the report to investigators in New Hanover County. It noted Smither sent the juvenile pictures of his exposed genitalia, as well as identifying features such as scars and tattoos, which investigators verified as Smither’s through Facebook pictures.
The document states the boy initially told Smither he was 19, but when Smither said he didn’t look older than 13, the boy said he was 14.
“[Smither] did not stop the conversation and continued to send nude photos of himself, as well as ask more photos of the juvenile,” the affidavit states. Lewd text messages were sent back and forth between the two as well.
Following his arrest, Smither was placed in the New Hanover County Jail under a $100,000 bond. Nanney said Smither was terminated from the church immediately following his arrest.
The warrant requested permission for authorities to search the church located at 4853 Masonboro Loop Road. A computer and three CDs labled “Youth Group Series” were seized.