A serial-rape suspect used Instagram and Snapchat to meet women and girls over a roughly two-year period, California authorities said.
Michael Watson Jr., 21, is accused of assaulting 13 females, including four minors, according to a Nov. 30 news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
DNA evidence linked Watson to similar assaults in four different jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, Hollywood, East Los Angeles and Inglewood, according to the release.
“That’s when we determined that we had a predator in our midst,” LASD Sgt. Joe Ramos said at a news conference on Nov. 30.
The initial investigation began in February 2021 when deputies responded to a call in Walnut about a “forcible rape involving two adult female victims,” according to the sheriff’s department.
“The suspect had been invited to the victims’ home after having met on ‘Instagram,’” the release said.
After entering the house, Watson is accused of sexually assaulting one of the women, Ramos said.
After the assault, as with every other incident, Watson took the woman’s “cellphone and at pistol point demanded their username and password to their phone,” Ramos said at the news conference. It was initially unclear why he did this.
Later, however, Watson contacted one of the victims again on “social media and sent threatening messages to her,” the sheriff’s department said. He also used her phone to impersonate her on social media, as well as threatening to post nude images from her phone if she did not give him money.
“Mr. Watson was very savvy, depending on who he was talking to, or if he had pictures of victims on their cell phones, of nude pictures, he would extort them,” Ramos said. “So whatever he was obtaining from every victim, he would use that information to lure them in.”
After identifying Watson as a suspect, the sheriff’s department worked to get a warrant for his arrest, Ramos said.
In late September, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Watson with 16 felonies, including sexual assault of a child under the age of 14, forcible rape, assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft and attempted extortion, according to the sheriff’s department.
Watson was arrested in Antelope Valley on Nov. 8, the sheriff’s department said. His bail was set at $1.7 million, and he is expected to appear in court on Jan. 12.
The sheriff’s department said it believes there are more victims, and anyone with information is asked to contact them at 877-710-5273 or by email at email@example.com.