Detectives arrest three in Morgantown child exploitation sting

MORGANTOWN —

Three men from three states thought they were going to meet and have sex with a 15-year-old girl were arrested over the weekend according to police.

Erik Layhue, 29, of Lemont Furnace, Pa., Christopher L. Dignan, 58, of Cumberland, Md., and Christopher Eldridge, 26, of Fairmont, are charged with soliciting a minor via computer.

The operation was conducted by the West Virginia Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force with the assistance of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Perry Palmer said his department was contacted by the task force for local assistance. Three deputies were authorized for overtime and helped by arresting all three suspects. Palmer said his guys did a great job.

On April 11, Layhue had an email conversation with someone he believed was a 15-year-old girl, according to a criminal complaint. In that conversation he said he wanted the girl to perform a sex act and he would come to Morgantown from Uniontown, Pa., for a sexual encounter.

The two agreed to meet on Canyon Road and a traffic stop was performed on the vehicle matching the description given by Layhue, according to a criminal complaint. He then spoke with an officer and “admitted to the above facts.”

Dignan spoke with a person he believed to be a 15-year-old girl over social media on April 11. He went by the alias Chris D and spoke about engaging in sexual acts with her, a criminal complaint said.

He came to Morgantown from Cumberland, Md., to have sex with the person he thought was a 15-year-old girl. In an interview with police, Dignan said he would have had sex with the girl if he had met her, the complaint said.

On April 13, Eldrige used social media to speak with a person he thought was a 15-year-old. He came to Morgantown from Fairmont to have sex with her and admitted so in an interview, according to a criminal complaint.

All three men were arraigned in Monongalia County Magistrate Court. Bond was set at $10,000 for Layhue and Dignan and has been posted. As of Monday afternoon, Eldrigde has not posted his $50,000 bond and is being held in North Central Regional Jail.

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