Local news

N.Y. man faces stalking charge

A 20-year-old man from upstate New York was jailed in Spokane over the weekend for allegedly stalking a 15-year-old girl he claims to have met through an interactive video game.

Joshua R. Stetar said he met the Spokane girl while playing Halo, an Internet portal that enables players to communicate and participate in virtual combat activities in real time.

Police arrested the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., man after he allegedly drove 40 hours to Spokane, went past the girl’s house, and threatened in a text message to rape her and a visiting 6-year-old cousin he thought was the girl’s sister.

The girl’s parents, Dennis and Gere Garcia, were outside when Stetar passed and honked. They got his license plate number and called police.

Officers traced Stetar to the Econo Lodge on Third Avenue. After questioning, they charged him with one felony count of stalking. He was booked into jail at 1:47 a.m. Saturday. Eight hours later, he posted $10,000 bond and was released.

Stetar, whose MySpace page is peppered with Bible verses, said in his last entry, on Dec. 26, that he was depressed. The self-described 6-foot-2 inch, 130-pound “materials handler” for a pallet company wrote that he might want to become a teacher at a Christian school and would like to meet his future wife.

During his interview, according to police, Stetar said he’d flown to Spokane Oct. 23, rented a U-Haul truck and drove by the Garcia home. The family was unaware of that previous visit.

In an interview Sunday, Gere Garcia said the family doesn’t believe Stetar’s story about how he “met” their daughter. She plays Halo only with select friends whom she must invite to participate, her mother said.

The Garcias think Stetar found their daughter in a photo her brother posted to his MySpace page. From there, they believe Stetar gleaned personal information through Internet searches.

“He found everything out over the Internet on how to contact her,” Gere Garcia said. “That’s creepy. That means anyone can do it.”

Over the past 12 months, Stetar allegedly sent hundreds of text messages – some love notes, some threats – and made countless calls to the girl’s cell phone and house, according to the family.

He also sent flowers and packages, the Garcias said, which they returned.

Despite the annoyances, there wasn’t enough cause to file charges against Stetar until he showed up last week, Garcia said.

The family plans to seek a restraining order against Stetar.

The county prosecutor’s office will determine whether to pursue the case.

Spokane police Cpl. Jon Strickland said that if Stetar doesn’t show up for court dates, an arrest warrant would have to be issued and escorts could be sent to fly back with Stetar, at the city’s expense.

“Sometimes these things don’t get prosecuted simply because of the funding,” Strickland said. “There’s a lot of expense.”


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