Man found hiding in closet after meeting 12-year-old girl for sex, authorities say

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor, Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston man was found hiding in a closet after showing up uninvited to a 12-year-old girl's apartment for sex, according to court documents.

Christopher Todd Leonard was found hiding in the girl's father's closet Nov. 2, 2018, according to investigators.

According to court documents, the father lives at the apartment with his two daughters but wasn't at home when Leonard arrived that Friday because the father had stayed overnight at a friend's home. The father told authorities he would periodically call his youngest daughter to check on how she and his adopted daughter were doing.

The father said when he went home to get ready for work the day of the alleged crime around 5:30 a.m., the front door was dead bolted. He told authorities he was able to get his 12-year-old daughter to unlock the door, and when he went to his closet to change clothes, he found Leonard, shirtless.

"Knowing this guy could have done something to my daughter and then knowing that I had another daughter that he could have done something to, it really affected me, and my family as well," the father said.

According to court documents, Leonard was not aggressive and told the father he was invited over by the 12-year-old girl. According to court documents, Leonard told the father he believed the girl was 21 years old.

According to court documents, in a statement, Leonard said he had been talking to the girl via Facebook and Instagram and believed she was 21. The girl told authorities that Leonard knew she was 12, according to court records.

The girl told investigators that she met Leonard while using public transportation a few weeks before he was found in the closet. She said he gave her his phone number and they kept in contact via text messages and phone calls, according to court documents.

"The man literally brainwashed her," the father said.

When authorities reviewed Leonard's phone, they said they found sexually explicit messages that Leonard had sent to the girl.

Leonard is charged with online solicitation of a minor and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Leonard has a criminal history that dates back to 1993. He has been charged with possession of marijuana and crack cocaine and also was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 1998.

Anyone with information on Leonard's whereabouts should call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

"You got predators looking for your kids every day. They're trying to get them," the father said. "Parents, just watch out for your kids on their cellphones and tablets."

It is a warning from a parent that is also echoed by Houston Crime Stoppers.

"Unfortunately, we see this daily," said Sydney Zuiker, who leads training on cybersafety for community groups, students, teachers and schools.

"[Predators] like a bunch of stuff on [students'] social media, and then they'll start direct messaging them. The whole purpose of predatory activity is they just want to get the student to trust them," Zuiker said.

Zuiker advised parents to keep an open door of communication with children and warn them about the inappropriate questions or information they may face. She also advised parents to be vigilant and watch over children's technology, phones and tablets.

"Really, what we're starting to see the most is predatory activity on social media and games," Zuiker said. "Know who your children are talking to."

Crime Stoppers, through the Safe School Institute, offer classes on cybersafety. They also recommend certain apps to help parents monitor their children's social media including Bark, TeenSafe, Life360, and OurPact.

For more information, click here or email info@crime-stoppers.org.

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