Local And Regional News

Dec 21, 2013 1:44 PM by Brin Merkley - Missoula

7 people arrested in Missoula sex predator sting operation

MISSOULA - Law enforcement officials in Missoula announced on Friday that seven people have been arrested and are accused of trying to have a sex with a child.

The suspects have been charged with felony sexual abuse of children after a week-long multi-agency sting operation.

The Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task force, along with members of the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County Sheriff's Department, and Flathead County Sheriff's Department began a sting operation by posting ads on the websites Craigslist and Backpage, acting as a woman who was willing to make a 12-year old female family member available for sexual encounters.

Arrested were Chad Briggs, Neal Gray, Jenna Davis, James Myers, Christopher Cooper, Keith Matthews, and Justin Walker.

The task force set up a sting operation with a detective posing as an adult who was willing to make a 12-year girl available for sex. They set up a house used for the undercover operation where the suspects had to travel to meet her and that's where police took them into custody.

No children were actually involved in the sting.

Tim West, one of the law enforcement officers, said, "We wanted to send a message that if you post it, respond to a post of it, or send images across the internet, there's a good chance you're dealing with one of us. And that's the message we wanted to send."

Six of the seven people remain in jail as of Friday night, and one has posted bond.

All seven face felony sexual abuse of children charges punishable up to 100 years in the Montana State Prison.