A New Jersey man left his young family behind to allegedly start up a relationship with a Kennewick teen he met through a social media site.
Joshua N. Higgins, 24, is charged with exchanging sexually explicit images with the girl before he moved across the country to be closer to her.He got an apartment in Kennewick so they could have a sexual relationship, prosecutors allege, which by law amounts to rape because of the young teen’s age.
Higgins first met the girl online in January 2012 and claimed he was 16, prosecutors said.
Higgins pleaded innocent Thursday in Benton County Superior Court to sexual exploitation of a minor, first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and third-degree rape of a child.
His trial is scheduled Sept. 30.
According to court documents, Higgins started communicating via text messages with the young teen girl more than 1 1/2 years ago. It is not known on which social media site the two met.
Higgins repeatedly asked the girl to send pornographic pictures and a video of herself, which she provided, Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra wrote in court documents.
Higgins moved to Kennewick this spring, reportedly leaving behind his wife and children in New Jersey.
The girl allegedly would sneak out of her home to be with Higgins until she was caught by her parents. And when her parents kept her home, Higgins would drive in front of the house continually, documents said.
Kennewick officers recovered the sexually explicit photos and video off the girl’s cellphone, which was handed over to them by her parents, court documents said.
And when Higgins was interviewed about the allegations, he admitted having sex with the girl and told police where he kept the pictures of her, documents said.
Higgins appeared in court Thursday with blue hair. His bail was set at $50,000.
Judge Vic VanderSchoor ordered Higgins to have no contact with the victim, including through social media.