John Weatherford III has his rights read to him by Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Investigator Charles Pickett Saturday night after Weatherford was arrested and charged with exploitation of a child at the home of a 15-year old teen. LCSD deputies Paul Early, center, and Chris McFarland, who along with a dozen other deputies, watch over Weatherford during the process.

    Eight Lauderdale County deputies and investigators sat around a living room with walls that were lined with photos of young children, family portraits and school pictures.

    They were in this home because a man suspected of being a sexual predator was on his way there to meet a teenaged boy.

    At about 8:50 p.m. Saturday, deputies arrested John Weatherford III, 29, of Meridian. On the ground next to Weatherford's open car door and where he was sitting handcuffed was a paper bag containing a hamburger and a soft drink he had bought for the teenager. Three LCSD deputies stood over him, one armed with an assault rifle, while an investigator read him his rights.

    Weatherford is charged with exploitation of a child. Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun said more charges are likely. He was taken into custody without incident at the Causeyville home by the officers who had been waiting patiently on him for three hours.

    Calhoun said this investigation has been ongoing for about three weeks. He applauded the family of the 15-year old boy who was allegedly targeted by Weatherford.

    "They did all the right things," said Calhoun, in recognizing there may be a serious issue and then notifying law enforcement authorities of the relationship Weatherford is said to have started up with their son. "I wish all parents and their children had this type of trust among themselves."

    After Weatherford was driven off to be processed into the the Lauderdale County jail, investigators and deputies fanned out to different parts of the county to confiscate other physical evidence they believe Weatherford to have. Weatherford's cell phone was taken at the scene and investigators believe it will hold valuable information pertaining to the case, Calhoun said.

    Calhoun said the teenager was contacted by Weatherford via a computer instant messaging site. Calhoun said when the conversations began to become strange, the teen told his parents. His parents, viewing some of the conversations, decided it was best to bring in law enforcement.

    "That is when we began closely monitoring the site, the conversations and other information," said Calhoun. "We then conducted this operation in which Weatherford wanted to come to the teenaged boy's home to meet him."

    Calhoun said this is a message to those who try to prey on children.

    "You can sit there at your computer typing away to who you think is a child or teenager but is it really?" Calhoun said. "It might be one of us. The hunter may become the hunted."

    Neither the teen nor the family were at home at the time of the arrest.


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