New details have emerged alleging rape against a Texas man who has been charged after he and a 12-year-old girl from Bassett went away together in February.
Kaleb Christopher Merritt, 21, of Texas received direct indictments by a Henry County grand jury on charges rape and four counts of production of child pornography involving a victim less than 15 years old.
He also received certified indictments for rape of child less than 13 years old, solicitation of a child less than 15 years old to propose sexual act between Feb. 7-12 and abduction with intent to defile between Feb. 7-13.
They were among 129 indictments handed down on Monday. Grand jury reports verify there is enough evidence to pursue a conviction.
An Amber Alert has been issued when the girl went missing from her home, and investigators ended a pursuit of Merritt, whom they knew had been in contact with the girl, when they caught up with the pair in Henderson, N.C., in early February.
At a preliminary hearing after Merritt's arrest the girl was called to the stand to testify, and she said that it was her intention to run away with Merritt because she loved him.
Initial charges of abduction and solicitation were not certified by the grand jury.
The Bulletin had published the name of the girl when she was considered a missing person, but because of her age and the nature of the case, she isn’t named in this account.
A criminal complaint on file in the Henry County Circuit Court Clerk's office by Henry County Sheriff's Office Investigator P.C. Stone indicates that a phone call from the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, Southwestern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to Stone advised that their office had received a complaint from Discord, a software company that provides a popular instant messaging and digital distribution platform.
The company relayed information that on Feb. 11 they became aware of a 12-year-old female that had been "making threats and statements of harming herself."
Stone said Bedford County Deputy C. Collins told him "the reported user is from a group of users that go by 'CVLT' who extort minor women into committing self-harm and uploading their own child pornography."
Collins told Stone "the reported user has access to a minor and has documented they intend to abuse them."
Stone wrote that Collins was made aware of numerous messages between Feb. 7 and Feb 10 that involved Merritt and the girl.
Those messages include the girl's asking Merritt if he had enjoyed having sexual intercourse with her and "multiple photographs of the girl and Merritt together at a tent in the woods on Feb. 10."
"There are also messages from the girl to Merritt stating, in essence, that the girl was craving food and that it was a sign that she was pregnant to which Merritt tells her that she is not pregnant," Stone wrote.
The complaint shows a cellular telephone belonging to the girl was seized by police on Feb. 11, and Investigator M.D. Wagoner located a video on the phone taken the day before that showed the girl "not wearing garments on the lower half of her body" and "sitting on a naked male's lap."
There were other videos on the phone, and all appeared to be taken from the "same tent in the woods that the girl and Merritt were photographed together."
Stone had explained in his complaint that his investigation determined that Merritt and the girl met on Instagram, a social media site, in December.
"Merritt then traveled from Spring Harris, TX, with the only apparent purpose of meeting the 12-year-old girl," he wrote.
Stone said Merritt was interviewed briefly on Feb. 11 and admitted meeting the girl in-person on Reed Creek Drive in Henry County and provided law enforcement with a phone he said he used to communicate with the girl but did not have service and was "believed to not have been used."
The search of the girl's phone revealed warnings from Merritt that he had been contacted by police and that she could be next, the complaint stated.
"While law enforcement was at her residence, Merritt instructed the girl to 'get out' and 'leave' and 'hide phone.' The girl then placed her Samsung cellular telephone inside of a saxophone case and initially refused to provide her cell phone to law enforcement."
The following day, on Feb. 12, the great-grandmother of the girl "reported the girl as missing and stated that she had left a suicide note at the residence."
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry called two press conferences after the Amber Alert was issued, the first to appeal to the public for the whereabouts of Merritt and the girl and the second to announce both had been found safe and Merritt had been arrested in Henderson.
Merritt is due in Henry County Circuit Court on Oct. 15, when he will be appointed counsel. Until then, he remains in the Henry County jail.
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt.