Florida pastor helps bust a man who was seeking sex from a 16-year-old girl, deputies say

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  • Grady Judd
    Sheriff of Polk County, Florida, U.S.

A Florida pastor has helped bust a registered sex offender who had left two handwritten notes taped to the doors of a Polk County church’s middle school and high school youth group buildings seeking girls “of any age,” according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

The man wasn’t looking for them to do odd jobs.

Rather, the notes, with typos, read:

Anying girls do not have anyone do with tonight.

Give your: name, age, pic and what like to do.

Anying age.

The “anying age” — presumably “any” age, was underlined twice for emphasis, according to court records and the arrest affidavit.

The man left his exact phone number with a direction to “text” the number.

He got texts, all right.

From the church’s pastor, Gregory Walker of Fuel Church in north Lakeland.

Walker, with church employee Chelsey Villagomez at his side at the church’s plaza, texted the number on May 26 and pretended to be “Abbey,” a 16-year-old girl, and the two began texting each other, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Walker and Villagomez realized the man they were texting was nearby, standing outside in a ditch near the intersection, so they called Judd’s deputies, the affidavit shows.

Transcript of the arrest affidavit on May 27, 2021 from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven, Florida. The alleged conversation is between a pastor and a detective working together and communicating with a suspected child offender on May 26.
Transcript of the arrest affidavit on May 27, 2021 from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven, Florida. The alleged conversation is between a pastor and a detective working together and communicating with a suspected child offender on May 26.

Abbey: What’s your name?

Suspect: Richard.

Abbey: I like that name. Wanna meet at Subway?

Suspect: You like [to] sleep with me?

A deputy took over the role of 16-year-old “Abbey” and began talking to the man on the phone.

“A meet-up was scheduled at a nearby convenience store (because nothing romances a 16-year-old girl more than buying her a Polar Pop and taquitos hot off the rollers),” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office wrote on a snarky Facebook post, complete with a comic book-style illustration of the scene with word balloons.

Suspect: Can you sleep with me tonight?

Abbey: We will have to see. You’re being kinda weird.

Suspect: OK, I am not 18. I am 54. You like came now?

“When the man arrived at the designated area, he didn’t find Abbey, but he did meet some of our handsome deputies,” Sheriff Judd’s Facebook post read.

Deputies identified the suspect as Richard Dean Lansford, 54, of Fort Worth, Texas. Lansford had been arrested in Texas in 2011 for online solicitation of a minor and in 2007 for unlawful restraint of a minor younger than 17 and in 2006 for indecency with a child and sexual contact and kidnapping, according to court records.

Lansford was registered as a sex offender in Texas, according to court records.

“He enjoys the company of young ladies, texting, and saving Pinterest pictures of girls to his cell phone. Richard was arrested and transported to Grady J’s BNB, fitted with some dandy orange duds, and given four felonies,” the Pasco Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.

According to the arrest report, Lansford told deputies “he was ‘stupid’ for doing this and he is ‘sorry.’ ”

As for the pastor’s input, Judd thanked Walker in comments he gave to Fox 13 News.

“The beautiful thing about Polk County is, I say it over and over is, we’re not in this effort alone. Our community helps us every day. And that’s why we’ve got this 49-year low crime rate because the community helps. That’s a perfect example.”

An early version of this story incorrectly gave Sheriff Grady Judd’s name.

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