Disney is one of the most-loved companies in the world. Most parents don't think twice about buying a Disney toy or showing a Disney movie to their kids. But that trust in all things Disney took a dark turn when it led to the alleged kidnapping of a young girl and her harrowing cross-country journey at the hands of an online predator.
Timothy Wind, a 53-year-old man from Colorado, was arrested last week for allegedly kidnapping and sexually assaulting the 14-year-old Connecticut girl he met online over two years ago.
The victim, Jillian Burgos, had last been seen by her father playing in their backyard in Connecticut. She was reported missing on August 25, 2014, and remained missing for over two weeks until investigators found her in Colorado in Wind's apartment.
The two had met online in 2012 at a Disney website called "Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow," which was a site for young teens to meet and talk about their favorite Disney fairies. The site shut down in September, 2013, but the pair continued to message through text and messaging apps until Burgos's disappearance in August, 2014.
Wind planned for a year to abduct her before driving from his apartment in Colorado to her residence in Connecticut. Wind then drove them on a "honeymoon-like trip" across the country almost 2,000 miles back to his apartment in Colorado.
Wind supposedly stopped on their cross-country trip to show Burgos where his parents fell in love.
When investigators found her in Colorado, Burgos initially lied about her name and age but then she broke down and told the authorities the truth. Investigators searched a laptop in connection with Burgos's disappearance that contained pictures of male genitalia dated from July 2013 and a love poem, presumably written by the victim.
A close friend of the victim's told police the girl had a boyfriend named "Tim" and had been dating him for about a year, the documents say. Wind and the victim met about two years ago and communicated through chat and messaging applications.
Police said Wind and the victim slept together on an air mattress in his apartment, and although the victim denied having sex with him, "it is highly suspected unlawful sexual contact occurred based on totality of this initial investigation," according to the documents.
Wind's bond has been set at $100,000 and the judge has ordered him to have no contact with children. Wind is charged with second-degree kidnapping, sexual assault of a child, Internet sexual exploitation of a child and enticement of a child.
The family and community have come together to support Burgos and restore a sense of normalcy her and her family's lives. I definitely wish her and her family the best and a speedy recovery.
The worst part about this whole thing is that it could have been prevented. There are plenty of things a parent can do to protect their children online.
The first step to take is making sure that your kids have limited freedom online. It's important to know where they're going and what they're going, and you can see what your kids are up to online with this free download to snoop on their browsing history.
Obviously, the Disney website wasn't suspect to these parents, but it just goes to show you that you can never be too careful with your children's online safety. Basic safety precautions should be set in place, and you can get started with protecting your kids on your Internet at home, and using an online watchdog to protect their browsing habits.
Another part of the problem is that kids are having a harder time distinguishing the difference between the Internet and the real world.
There are also steps you should take to monitor and restrict your children's smartphone usage. DinnerTime is an app that can remotely lock your child's phone for a set amount of time. Ignore No More is also a handy app that locks down everything but the ability to call mom or 911.
I also highly recommend sitting down with your kids and grandkids and discussing appropriate online behavior. Go over my 10 Commandments for Kids Online with your children and post it next to the computer to remind them of good browsing habits.
Kickstarter even has an ingenious way to limit your kid's Internet usage with a router that only lets them online when their chores are done.