South Carolina

Facebook chat leads to sexual assault and prison time for Myrtle Beach man

WELCH
WELCH

A Myrtle Beach man was sentenced Thursday to 24 years in prison after an Horry County jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in 2015, according to a release from 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

David James Welch, 21, was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping after a jury trial that began Monday, said Joshua D. Holford, the senior assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case for the Solicitor’s Office with Assistant Solicitor Cara Walker.

The jury found Welch guilty of sexually assaulting a woman on Jan. 8, 2015, in the Myrtle Beach area after the two met for the first time, Holford said. The victim met and started chatting with Welch online a few days before they agreed to meet in person that evening, according to the release.

During that first meeting, Welch tricked the victim into driving to an apartment complex, where he said he lived, Holford said. Welch pointed a gun at the victim, forced her to have sex with him and then stole her purse and cellphone so she could not contact anyone, the release stated.

The victim drove to the nearby Coastal Grand Mall to a department store to call the police and report the crime, Holford said. Police responded, and using the victim’s cellphone records and Facebook records, they were able to corroborate the victim’s account of the incident, according to the release.

The jury found Welch not guilty on charges of armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, Holford said. On the criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping charges, Circuit Court Judge Steven H. John sentenced Welch to 24 years in prison for each offense, but the sentences will run at the same time.

After sentencing Welch for the 2015 sexual assault and kidnapping, John also revoked Welch’s probation on a prior conviction of strong-armed robbery, Holford said in the release. Welch was sentenced to serve six years for that robbery charge.

“My thanks goes to the officers with the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Detective Jeremiah Beam for their diligent work to bring justice in this case,” Holford said. “This is a cautionary tale about meeting someone online. There are several steps you should take if you are meeting someone for the first time to protect yourself.”

The solicitor’s office advises people to: meet in a public place; let friends and family know who you are meeting with, where you plan to go and what time you should return; give friends and family the person’s contact information; and don’t be afraid to leave the situation if you feel uncomfortable with the person after meeting them.

“Even if you do all the right things when meeting someone, be cautious and on guard at all times,” Holford said. “If you are the victim of a crime, especially a sexual assault, do not blame yourself. You are not at fault. No one deserves or asks to (be) the victim of a sexual assault. It takes courage and strength to tell family and authorities what happen(ed).”

In an unrelated case from November 2014, Welch also was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping, Holford said. Those charges remain pending in that incident, which occurred at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, according to the release.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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