On June 16, John Edward Heelan, 56, was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child and solicitation of a child by a computer. A Watauga County jury found Heelan guilty as charged after a week-long trial.
In January of 2016, Mr. Heelan posted an advertisement on Craigslist seeking to pay a young female for sex. The advertisement drew the attention of a Boone Police Department detective who focuses on internet crimes against children. The detective responded to the Craigslist post pretending to be a 14-year-old girl. Mr. Heelan then pursued a sexual relationship with the individual that he believed to be a 14-year-old that included sending a series of sexually explicit messages via email. Mr. Heelan’s criminal activity culminated in his arranging to meet the girl at the Boone Mall for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. On February 12, 2016, law enforcement officials arrested Heelan after he drove from his residence in Greenville, South Carolina, to Boone to meet the child for sexual purposes.
The Honorable Marvin P. Pope, Superior Court Judge, sentenced Heelan to a minimum of 29 months, and a maximum of 54 months in prison. Judge Pope also required Heelan to register as a sex offender for 30 years and required Heelan to wear a satellite-based monitoring device for ten years after his release from prison.
“The sentence in this case should send a strong message that attempts to take advantage of our children will not be tolerated,” District Attorney Seth Banks said in a statement. “I would like to commend Assistant District Attorney Matt Rupp and the Boone Police Department for their continuing efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.”