A Polk County, Florida 11 year-old child was victimized by a 35 year-old women from Indiana after they met playing the game Fortnite. In late 2020, Tabitha Palmer began chatting with the child through the online game. Palmer knew that the child was 11 years-old. The initial conversations were fairly basic, but over time, Palmer groomed the victim into feeling very comfortable talking to her. Palmer informed the victim that she was married and had a child of her own. She convinced the child to begin communicating with her through Discord, an online messaging app. The defendant instructed the victim to delete their conversations. Palmer sent numerous lewd photos of herself and convinced the child to do the same. She also instructed him to engage in lewd acts while on video chats with her. More than 14,300 Discord messages were exchanged between the woman and the child. These activities continued for many months. The defendant even discussed moving to Florida and getting a job close to the victim. Thankfully, the child’s parent eventually discovered some of the conversations.
The Lakeland Police Department conducted an investigation and arrested the woman. Earlier this year, the woman pled guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to 13 years in Florida State Prison. She was designated as a Sexual Offender. She will serve an additional 15 years of Sexual Offender Probation following her release from prison. The sentence was approved by the parent of the child in an effort to avoid the child having to testify in court during a trial.
This case is an important reminder to parents of children who play any type of online game. The threat is real and can come from anywhere. State Attorney Brian Haas is grateful to the Lakeland Police Department and Assistant State Attorney Tim Coleman for their hard work and dedication in this case.