BOONE, NC (WJZY) - The Boone Police Department arrested a Baltimore, Maryland man after they said he met up with a 15-year-old girl for sexual purposes.
Officers said on May 31, Watauga High School staff noticed a 15-year-old girl was missing from the campus grounds. Boone police responded and began an investigation.
During this investigation, police learned that the teen had walked away from the high school campus willingly. The teen was located safely a short time later. Officers said they continued to investigate this situation after the minor had returned to the school.
On June 2, police determined that this 15-year-old had encountered a man on a social media outlet prior to walking away from the campus. This man was identified during this investigation as 22-year-old Darius Dekwan Lathon.
Lathon and this 15-year-old communicated through social media and texting apps for a period of time.
Investigators believe that during this time, Lathon arranged to meet with this minor for sexual purposes. Upon leaving the school campus, the teen met with Lathon nearby and went with him to his residence for a period of time.
“Upon receiving this information, we instantly utilized our Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force resources. Working hand-in-hand with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Computer Crimes Unit, we were able to close this investigation quickly to prevent any additional victims," Chris Hatton, Investigations Division Commander, said.
Investigators learned that Lathon has been living in Boone for approximately two weeks since moving here from Baltimore, Maryland.
Lathon was arrested and charged with the following crimes:
• Statutory Rape with a Child Less Than or Equal to 15 Years of Age
• Statutory Sex Offense with a Child Less Than or Equal to 15 Years of Age
• First Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
• Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
• Dissemination of Obscene Material to a Minor
Lathon was taken before a Watauga County Magistrate, where he was assigned a court date of July 8, 2016 and placed under a $500,000 secured bond.