By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Federal authorities have charged a woman from South Carolina.  They say she took a Minnesota girl and sexually assaulted her.

Investigators say Katrina Aliff drove from Greenville to South St. Paul in September to pick-up the 11-year-old girl. Records show they met online.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman has more on what parents can be looking for in cases like this.

“Offenders are going to go where the kids are,” explained Alison Feigh, Director of Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

Authorities say Aliff met her 11-year-old victim online, gained her trust and enticed her to leave her home and travel to Greenville, South Carolina.

“The number one lure that adults use online to entice kids is attention and affection,” Feigh said.

Feigh says offenders use tactics that isolate their victims, leaving them to believe no one but them cares.

The victim’s parents noticed unusual text messages between their 11-year-old and Aliff. They destroyed the phone but the child found other ways to keep in touch with the 23-year-old.

“Kids only tell their parents at a rate of about 5% if they are being sexually solicited online, but they will often tell someone their same age,” Feigh added.

In this instance, technology helped find the missing child.

“One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it does help us find missing people,” said Feigh. “But a lot of the reason people are going missing is because of people using the internet to exploit and to harm.”

Feigh believes parents should partner with their kids, not interrogate when it comes to computer usage.

“When we are thinking about prevention, a lot of parents feel like ‘my kids are older, they are the ones who are changing the clock, they are handling the IT issues,’ but it is important to go through scenarios,” explained Feigh.

Aliff was arrested at her home in Greenville, South Carolina. The 11-year-old victim is back here in Minnesota with her family.

The 23-year-old was sent to New York state where she will undergo a mental health evaluation to determine how the courts handle this case.

Reg Chapman