Crime

Disabled Navy vet who was Macon cop caught in online child-sex sting at Robins AFB

Recognizing signs of physical child abuse

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme

A Middle Georgia man arrested last spring in an online child-sex sting set up by investigators at Robins Air Force Base will spend at least a decade in prison after pleading guilty in federal court here Tuesday.

Bryan Alan Asbell Sr., 56, pleaded guilty to attempted online enticement of a minor for arranging to meet a 14-year-old “girl” for sex last spring. The “girl” was actually a cop posing online as a teenager to catch potential sexual predators.

Asbell, of Chester in northern Dodge County, faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years behind bars. He will be sentenced in April.

In a Tuesday hearing in U.S. District Court here, Asbell’s lawyer, Jared Scott Westbroek, said Asbell, who walks with the aid of a rolling walker, suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been medically disabled since 1996.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court by Brandyn Ball, an agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigation, last year on March 15 a phony personal ad was posted by agents on Craigslist.

“Robins AFB is lonely,” the ad began. “Nuthing 2 do after school, can you get on base? wanna hang out or chat? hit me up!”

The same day, Asbell, whose wife died in 2016, responded to the ad by email and described himself as a 55-year-old veteran. He also asked the age of the person who’d posted the ad, who it turned out was a federal agent posing as a 14-year-old girl who lived on the base with her parents.

Asbell soon began text-messaging the “girl” — identified as “S” in the affidavit.

According to the affidavit, “S stated her age was 14 at the onset of the conversation.”

Investigators say Asbell told “S” that he was a disabled Navy veteran, and within a day or two he told her she was “special” and began referring to her in messages as “gf,” or “girlfriend.”

Behind the scenes, Air Force agents would comb Asbell’s past, finding “no major legal issues,” the affidavit noted, but learned that in the past he worked as a cop in Macon and while in the Navy he had been an intelligence specialist with a top-secret clearance.

On March 17, the authorities say that after “S” sent Asbell a picture of herself, Asbell emailed “S” a picture of himself along with a photo of his grandchildren.

He was later said to have told “S” that he “admired” her picture and that it made her “look older than ... she was” and that she was “a very lovely young lady.” When “S” asked Asbell how pretty he thought she was, Asbell, according to the affidavit, replied, “pretty enough to call you my gf knowing I could go to jail for 10 years.”

After Asbell mentioned to “S” in messages that some men at the air base had been arrested in an underage-sting involving “sexual pictures,” Asbell messaged her saying, “I hope you are not trying to entice me for that.”

By March 20 or so, the messages turned sexually explicit and graphic, the investigators say, and Asbell coached “S” about sex acts.

At one point, Asbell was said to have asked “S” to tell him “how much she loves” him.

“To Mars and back,” she replied. Asbell told her that he loved her to “the moon and back.”

The conversations evolved to the prospect of meeting in person, and how if they did, Asbell wrote, he would be in trouble “because of you being 14.”

The investigators say that on March 30, Asbell emailed “S” three pictures of his penis.

On April 5, Asbell arranged to meet “S” at her house in a family housing area at Robins while her “parents” were away. The authorities say he stopped at Burger King on base and ordered “S” some food.

The investigators say Asbell then drove his 2007 Dodge pickup to the “girl’s” house, where he was greeted by agents and arrested when he walked in, food in hand.

With him he had also brought a gift for “S” — a gold necklace. An inscription on it read: “I love you to the moon and back.”

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.


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