Picture: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Picture: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

She survived a throat-slashing at age 10. Years later, a man started sending her pictures of the crime scene

By The Washington Post Time of article published Apr 10, 2021

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Derek Hawkins

Washington - On New Year's Eve in 1999, a 10-year-old girl and her friend were attacked in a South Texas home by a serial killer who slashed their throats. The 10-year-old survived; her friend died at her side.

Nearly two decades later - after the killer was tried, convicted and executed - the victim was flooded with graphic reminders of that night when Alvin Willie George, a Florida resident she'd never met, started stalking her on social media.

For months, George sent the victim and her sisters Facebook messages containing photos of the crime scene, along with threats to rape and kill them, according to court records.

On Thursday, George was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to federal cyberstalking charges. A public defender representing him didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is a textbook application of the relatively new federal statute barring stalking online. The law, created in 2013 as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act, makes it a federal crime to use a computer to put a person "in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury" or "cause substantial emotional distress."

The victim was not identified in court documents, which is typical in cyberstalking cases.

The 1999 attack on the victim and her friend was carried out by Tommy Lynn Sells, a drifter then in his 30s whom investigators would go on to link to nearly two-dozen murders. Sells entered a room where they were sleeping and cut their throats with a boning knife. The younger girl survived by pretending to be dead until he left, according to news archives.

Sells was convicted and sentenced to death for murder and attempted murder. He was executed in 2014 in Texas.

Federal prosecutors said George, a 25-year-old from Cross City, Fla., had researched Sells's crimes online and started harassing the victim and her sisters in late 2016.

Over the course of "several months," George used fake Facebook accounts he created to send them the same photo of the bedroom where the killing occurred, according to his plea agreement. In spring and summer of the following year, he peppered them with abusive messages, telling the family he knew where they lived and was going to come kill them, according to the agreement.

Authorities eventually stepped in, and in December 2017 the FBI interviewed George at his home in Florida, according to court records.

It's not clear whether investigators learned why he started stalking the victim and her sisters, and many documents in the case remain sealed. But George's plea agreement states that he "admitted to creating Facebook accounts to send threats to injure people that may have known or been associated with" the girl who was murdered.

His sentence on two counts of cyberstalking was close to the maximum of five years imprisonment under the statute. He was also ordered to pay $525 in restitution to one of the victims. The case was handled by the U.S. attorney's office in Idaho.

Federal prosecutors in other jurisdictions have aggressively pursued cyberstalking charges in other cases in recent years.

In late 2019, a Florida fitness trainer was sentenced to almost five years in prison after authorities said she used 369 Instagram accounts and 18 email addresses to threaten a former business partner.

More recently, in June of last year, six former eBay employees, including two executives, were charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking after allegedly ordering that a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath and roaches be sent to a couple who publish an online newsletter about e-commerce.

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