Meridian Star

January 29, 2013

Three men charged with attempting to lure minors

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said in a news conference Monday afternoon three men have been arrested and charged in connection with the luring of a minor through a social media website.

    Sollie said Johnny Varnell Warren, 57, of 5811 I Street in Meridian, Kevin Donovan Winstead, 50, of 13460 Highway 492, in Union, and Clifton Donavan Kelly, of 18244 Montgomery Highway, Highland Home, Ala., have been charged with computer luring. Each man was placed on $10,000 bond and have since posted bail and are out of jail.

    Sollie said authorities with the Meridian Community College Police Department alerted Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department investigators early last week about possible inappropriate activity by Warren, who worked at the MCC campus book store. Sollie said investigators posing as a minor monitored Warren's online activity, which allegedly included online communications of a sexual nature with minors on a social network website.

    "We determined that Warren, and the two other suspects in this case, were using the medium to contact people under the age of 18 to set up sexual contact," Sollie said. "Investigators arranged a meeting through the fictional person with Warren on Friday at which time Warren was taken into custody without further incident by LCSD investigators."

    Kelly and Winstead are accused of making sexual advances over the same website to the same fictional minor created by investigators. The two men were arrested Sunday and charged after they showed up at a Meridian location to meet with what they thought would be a minor, Sollie said. Instead, they arrived to find sheriff's investigators.

    Dr. Scott Elliott, president of MCC released a statement from his office later Monday addressing the arrest of the MCC employee.

    "The individual who was arrested is no longer associated with the college," Elliott said. "Therefore, the matter is now in the capable hands of local law enforcement. As this is a personnel issue, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further. I just want the public to be assured that the college remains absolutely committed to providing a safe environment for our students and staff."

    Sollie said Winstead was unemployed but that Kelly was a professor at the University of West Alabama in Livingston, Ala. Dr. Richard Holland, president of UWA, said he had not been notified of Kelly's arrest.

    "We are making inquiries of our own here to find out all we can," Holland said late Monday afternoon.

    Holland said Kelly is a lecturer with the Department of Languages and Literature. Holland said until he learned the exact nature of the arrest he would not be able to comment on Holland's employment status. Holland said that Kelly's position at the college was a one-year appointment.