Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Public safety

Police: Man, 57, cyberstalked 19-year-old he met at high school

LARGO — The two met in 2015 during a school trip, police said.

She was a high school student. He was a chaperone — and the husband of an administrator at Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater.

The pair waited until she graduated and was of age, Largo police said, before they engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.

But when she ended it last year, police said, she soon found herself fearing for her safety.

Bruce William Joseph, 57, was arrested Tuesday and accused of cyberstalking and harassing his former paramour.

The identity of the woman, who is now 19, was withheld by police. Her mother held a news conference on Tuesday to talk about the case. The Tampa Bay Times is also withholding the identities of the woman and her mother because of the nature of the allegations.

Largo police said Joseph created fake social media profiles posing as her, sent nude photos of her to people she knew and directed men to her home under the auspices of having sexual relations with her.

He faces a felony charge of aggravated stalking and misdemeanor charges of criminal use of personal identification and sexual cyber harassment.

The mother said her family knew Joseph, and called his relationship with her daughter an "affair" because it took place while he was married.

"I hope he goes to jail, because he has harassed my whole family," the mother said. "I was so mad, and hurt. I just didn’t understand how someone who I felt loved my family could do this."

Police wouldn’t say exactly when the relationship started, but the mother said it was in 2016. Joseph regularly visited the woman at an out-of-state college, police said, until she ended it in late 2017.

Almost immediately, police said, the online harassment started.

Joseph created several social media profiles, including on Instagram and Snapchat, in the woman’s name and uploaded photos of her, the reports said.

Posing as her, police said Joseph started electronic conversations with men who thought they were talking to the woman herself.

Then, police said, he started directing them to her physical location.

"The defendant would give directions to the victim’s home and on two occasions men have arrived at her home believing they were going to have sex with the victim," the arrest report said.

The woman had sent Joseph nude photos of herself during their relationship. Police said Joseph then sent those photos to her family and friends.

"The victim has become extremely afraid to leave her home and fears for her safety due to the (defendant) sending strangers to her house," the arrest report said. "The victim has also become emotionally distressed due to the constant harassment from the (defendant) over texts and phone calls."

Largo police said they started investigating Joseph in early February, after they were approached by a private investigator, John Hubbard. He said the mother hired him in January after the harassment grew extreme.

Hubbard said he tracked the online activity to the 57-year-old through social media accounts and phone numbers that matched IP addresses used by Joseph. Then Hubbard said he contacted law enforcement.

The arrest report said a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number and a fake SnapChat account were found to be registered to Joseph’s home in Largo.

Joseph was booked into the Pinellas County jail and then freed later Tuesday after posting $50,300 bail. St. Petersburg attorney Peter Andrews, who represented Joseph in court that day, declined to comment.

What was even more maddening for the mother, she said, is that she spoke to Joseph about the harassment while they were enduring it.

"Before I knew it was him, we would talk about this," she said. "I would confide in him. And all the time it was him."

"I’m hurt ... I’m so hurt and disappointed."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird. Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

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