INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis priest charged with child sex crimes used digital apps including Snapchat and FaceTime to contact the alleged victim, according to court documents.
David Marcotte, 32, was charged Thursday in Hamilton County with child solicitation, vicarious sexual gratification and dissemination of matter harmful to minors.
Authorities began investigating in February after a minor stated Marcotte had exposed himself during video calls, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by News 8.
The two met in August 2014 at St. Malachy Catholic Parish in Brownsburg, where the then-14-year-old was enrolled. Marcotte was a priest at the Catholic school and church, and the teen’s assistant athletic coach.
Marcotte was “on Snapchat and very popular with the kids,” the teen stated during interviews with detectives.
The two exchanged messages on Snapchat as early as December 2016 and “actively” communicated on the app during 2017, according to Snap Inc. records.
In late 2017, Marcotte sent the teen a photo of himself wearing nothing but underwear on Snapchat and requested they talk on FaceTime, according to the affidavit.
The teen, then 15, told authorities the priest was touching himself when he or she answered the video call.
Marcotte asked the teen to take the phone into the bathroom and masturbated as he watched the teen shower, the affidavit states.
Authorities determined the priest exposed himself during at least four FaceTime calls with the teen.
Child predators often groom their victims on Snapchat before progressing to video calls and physical contact, experts said.
Adam Wandt, a cyber security expert and assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, described Snapchat as a “haven for child predators.”
“Child predators know their conduct is wrong and they try to take measures to protect themselves,” Wandt told News 8. “I think Snapchat provides them with a forum where many of them feel a fair level of protection because they know that their messages and stories will be deleted in a short period of time.”
Snap Inc. representatives declined to answer questions from News 8 but maintained the company “works closely with law enforcement” and provides ways for Snapchat users to block and report offenders.
Wandt recommended parents monitor digital communications of children under age 16.
“Parents should have access to their social media accounts and they should routinely review what goes on in these accounts,” Wandt said. “Due to the large number of child predators we’ve seen on Snapchat during my research, my only conclusion is that the behavior is pervasive and that people across the world are using these platforms to prey on our children.”
Marcotte, who was a priest at Roncalli High School when the allegations surfaced, was suspended from public ministry in February.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis issued a statement Friday in response to the felony charges filed against Marcotte:
“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is committed to protecting children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse and misconduct. If you are a victim of sexual abuse or misconduct by a person ministering on behalf of the church, or if you know of anyone who has been a victim, please contact civil authorities and the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (317) 236-1548 or (800) 382-9836, ext. 1548 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Confidential reports can also be made online or by calling (888) 393-6810. Let us hold all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and their families in prayer.”