Police use Facebook to track Modesto kidnapping suspect to Nevada

05/08/2014 6:28 AM

05/08/2014 7:15 PM

Modesto police are crediting Facebook with helping them track a man suspected of kidnapping two girls and taking them to a motel room in Sparks, Nev.

According to the Sparks Police Department, officers got a call from Modesto police at 7:55 p.m. Tuesday regarding a possible kidnapping of two underage girls. Officers went to the John Ascuaga’s Nugget hotel, where Modesto police had tracked the girls.

Police arrested Nicholas Wessel, 37, of Richmond, said Modesto police Sgt. Ivan Valencia.

The two girls had been missing since Sunday, when police got a call about one of them from her family. The 15-year-old had been reported as a runaway before, Valencia said. After talking with family and friends, detectives connected the 15-year-old to another Modesto girl, 14. Police learned that the 14-year-old also was missing, Valencia said.

Through the second girl’s Facebook page, police found a connection with Wessel, Valencia said.

Tuesday, detectives noticed that one of the girls had logged onto Facebook, and they contacted the social media service. “Facebook was extremely helpful,” Valencia said.

Staff at Facebook provided investigators with an Internet protocol address that traced to the Nugget. A detective called the hotel and confirmed that Wessel was registered.

Investigators called police in Sparks, who responded to the hotel and found the three, Valencia said. In Nevada, Wessel had nonconsensual sex with the 14-year-old girl, police said. Officers also found several illegal photographs of children on a camera in the room, police said.

“Some of the images were of our 14-year-old victim but the others are unknown to us at this time,” Sparks police said in a news release.

Wessel was booked in the Washoe County Jail on two charges of kidnapping, one charge of sexual assault on a child and possession of child pornography, police said. The two girls were taken to an area juvenile detention facility.

Valencia said Thursday morning that he did not know if the girls had been taken home.

He said it wasn’t clear how long the three had been at the hotel, but investigators don’t believe they went directly to Nevada from Modesto.

“We also got a Facebook ping in Richmond,” he said.

Valencia said the cooperation from Facebook was invaluable to finding the girls. “Technology worked in our favor this time.”

Wessel also apparently has a Facebook profile. A page that belongs to a Nick Wessel in Richmond identifies him as a former U.S. Marine.

Sunday, the day the girls ran away, Wessel rated Modesto on Facebook. He gave the city two out of five stars.

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