A 24-year-old South Carolina Army veteran with PTSD appears to have committed suicide after prison inmates pretending to be the parents of a 17-year-old girl targeted him in a ‘sextortion’ scam.
Jared Johns, 24, of Greenville, South Carolina, killed himself on September 11, 2018 — the day after exchanging text messages with people who said they were the parents of a teenage girl and claimed that Jared had asked their daughter to text him nude photos.
Jared’s parents, Kathy Bowling and Kevin Johns, told the
Jared Johns, 24, of Greenville, South Carolina, killed himself the day after exchanging text messages from people who said they were the parents of an underage girl and claimed that he had asked their daughter to text him nude photos
Jared, a father of two who suffered from PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan, asked for proof he had requested photos as he did not recall communicating with the supposed 17-year-old girl
In text messages saved on Jared’s phone and shared with the newspaper, the girl’s ‘parents’ claimed that Jared had asked for and received nude photos of their underage daughter. Jared asked for proof that he’d made the request as he said that he didn’t remember communicating with their daughter.
The ‘parents’ refused to send proof, telling him instead ‘You know what you did’ and saying they would go to the police about it. They also demanded $1,189 from Jared so that they could deactivate her phone number and buy her a new phone.
Jared meanwhile told the ‘parents’ that he didn’t recall talking to the girl and that if he did, he would never have asked for nude pictures of an underage girl, to which the ‘parents’ said that he ‘plainly read where she said she wasn’t of age.’
Jared’s parents believe that their son was caught in a sextortion scam similar to the one that five South Carolina inmates and 10 accomplices were indicted for in Fall 2018.
Authorities said the accused allegedly extorted $500,000 from 442 military servicemen around the country between 2015 and early 2018.
Jared’s parents, mom Kathy Bowling (pictured) and father Kevin Johns believe their son was targeted in a sextortion scam run by inmates at a South Carolina prison
Bowling (pictured) believes that Jared couldn’t handle the sextortion threat and that his PTSD ‘took over,’ causing him to kill himself on September 11, 2018
Jared’s PTSD was the result of his experiences while serving in the Army in Afghanistan
Jared’s parents say that the sextortion Jared experienced was similar to a case that five South Carolina inmates and 10 accomplices were indicted for in Fall 2018, which targeted 442 military servicemen and reaped $500,000
The inmates were said to have used contraband cellphones to pose as women on online dating sites in an effort to lure servicemen. They would then send naked pictures to the servicemen and ask for naked shots in return.
Later, the servicemen would be contacted by people posing as angry fathers, claiming that the women the servicemen were sending illicit photos to were all underage. The ‘fathers’ would demand that the servicemen send them money in lieu of going to the police.
Jared, a father of two toddlers, had signed up for the online dating service PlentyofFish.com, according to his parents, who believe that his profile on the site was what brought him to the sextortionists’ attention.
Kathy said that a woman Jared was dating told her that the night he received the texts from the teen’s ‘parents,’ he had spoken with someone claiming to be a police officer, who had been contacted by the ‘parents’ about the nude photos the 17-year-old supposedly sent Jared.
Jared’s call logs reflected that he had spoken on the phone with the girl’s supposed father that night, too. There did not appear to be any requests for nude photos or messages from the girl or pictures of her on his phone, though.
Still, the ‘parents’ told Jared that they would be ‘going to the police and you are going to jail.’
Within minutes of their last text message exchange, Jared fatally shot himself, based on the time at which his Apple Watch noted a lack of heartbeat.
Ultimately, Jared’s parents said that their son’s PTSD — the result of a tour in Afghanistan — meant that he could not handle the sextortion threat and that it resulted in his committing suicide.
‘I feel like they’re the ones who shot him,’ Kevin Johns told the
Before killing himself, Jared recorded a video of himself in which he said ‘I messed up, and I’m so sorry,’ noting that he ‘I made some stupid mistakes.’
Bowling believes ‘the PTSD just took over.’
After her son died, Bowling started sending text messages and calling the number of the ‘parents,’ sending them pictures of Jared’s funeral and telling them that they caused his death.
‘Im sorry for your lose.. i will not have you threatening my family when plainly he should not have been texting my underage daughter.,’ the ‘father’ responded. ‘I spoke with a detective today and explained what was going on so please don’t have me contact him tomorrow about your threats .. I’m sorry again for your loss.’
The ‘parents’ then blocked Bowling’s number.
Jared’s parents said they are working with Greenville police who are investigating the incident.