Deputies say e-mail to Dayton girls was no threat
January 31, 2001
Lyon County law enforcement authorities said Tuesday they found the source of a cryptic e-mail message sent to two dozen girls in the Dayton area that stirred concerns throughout the community.
But after interviewing the 18-year-old Dayton man who sent the message, sheriff’s deputies said they were convinced no direct threat was made and no harm intended.
No arrest was made but the message, filled with misspellings and grammatical errors, was considered by some to possibly be a veiled threat against the girls, all current or former students at Dayton High School.
“We took this very seriously, and even contacted the FBI. The way the message was written it could have been perceived as a threat,’’ said Deputy Wes Francis at the Dayton substation of the sheriff’s department. “After tracing the message to a Dayton address, we found the individual who was responsible and made him understand how serious it was.’’
Francis said he located the sender of the message, a former Dayton High student, at his place of employment in Carson City and gave him a stern warning.
“When I told him why I was there, all the color went out of his face. He told me it was all a joke and he didn’t mean anything by it,’’ Francis said.
The matter came to the attention of Dayton High School administrators from a parent of one of the 24 girls who was contacted on Jan. 23. School officials informed the sheriff’s office, and deputies began talking to others whose e-mail addresses were on the document.
The subject reference of the e-mail was “dayton high the elite.’’ It called on the girls to “come to your calling and join me and the elite’’ and said “if you choose to go your separate paths, so be it. Fate may have another calling for you.’’
When officials first saw the text of the message, Francis said they weren’t sure what to make of it.
“It could have been from a cult group. We just didn’t know,’’ Francis said.
Authorities said they subpoenaed America Online (AOL) records and got the address on the account where the message originated. The account is held by the mother of the man identified as the sender.
Francis said the person responsible for sending the message to the girls knew some of them and got their e-mail addresses through an online search of users who live in Dayton.
“An important lesson in all this is to not include specific information about where you live or go to school or anything else,’’ Francis said.
Young people routinely provide details about themselves and their lives in a “profile’’ section of AOL users.
“Many people list all kinds of information and don’t think twice about it. But it isn’t required for you to be a user,’’ Francis said.
He said this is being driven home in meetings with students targeted by the bizarre e-mail message. He said he is emphasizing the potential danger they are subjecting themselves to in providing information that allows someone to locate them.
Francis said he still has some follow-up interviews to do with the students.
Dayton High assistant principal Teri White said the girls feel safe and reassured after the details of what happened were explained to them.
Sheriff’s officials suggested the possibility of the man who sent the messages going to school and apologizing to the girls. But White said Lyon County schools Superintendent Nat Lommori decided this wasn’t proper because the incident didn’t occur on school grounds.
© 2001 Tim Anderson, Reno Gazette-Journal