Statutory rape suspect accused of using Facebook to communicate - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Statutory rape suspect accused of using Facebook to communicate with victim

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - A Mid-South father says a man charged with the statutory rape of his daughter is using his status updates on Facebook to violate orders to stay away.

Mario Cirillo's situation is complicated.  He says his daughter fell in love with a man twice her age when she was only 17.

"I consider him to be a sexual predator that preys on young girls, and I'm just trying to make sure he doesn't re-victimize my daughter," Cirillo said in a recent interview.

According an affidavit of complaint, 34-year-old David Vanlandingham is charged with aggravated statutory rape after the FBI Crimes Against Children Unit, "found numerous sexually explicit photographs of the defendant...and a known victim."

That "known victim" is Cirillo's daughter - who met Vanlandingham when she was just 16.  The FBI ordered Vanlandingham to stay away from the teen, so when the couple was spotted together again, Vanlandingham landed in jail.

Vanlandingham is now out on bond, and Cirillo says he's using Facebook to keep the relationship alive...despite a restraining order against him.

"She was in a treatment center, and when she got out, he started having contact with her," Cirillo said.

It used to be clear if someone violated a restraining order. They'd contact their victim directly, be it face to face, over the phone, or by email.  But through status updates, Facebook allows you to communicate with hundreds of people at once, making it virtually impossible to prove to whom a message is directed.

For example, Cirillo says Vanlandingham updates his status with lyrics to a song, and then Cirrilo's daughter updates her status with song lyrics back.  Cirillo says this post is a code message to his daughter, who also responds in code.

Another post from Vanlandingham reads, "I miss you sooooo much!!" Despite Cirillo's best efforts to stop the contact, he says the FBI told him there's not much they can do besides monitor it.

"They've made comments to each other and they say there's not enough concrete evidence about who initiated it, but it's pretty clear they are communicating," he said.

According to a spokesperson at the Shelby County District Attorney's office, communication on Facebook is a violation of a restraining order.

Psychologist Dr. John Ciocca can't comment on this case in particular, but says adults can have great influence over minors.

"Certainly it's going to be difficult for any teenager to overcome the influence of an adult who's romantically interested, if that adult is still providing flattery and other kinds of psychological manipulation that goes along with those types of relationships," He said.

It's a relationship that Cirillo is dad desperately fighting.

"It is like her whole brain has been brain washed by, you know, this man who did all of this to her," he said.

Vanlandingham's attorney said his client can not comment on the charge against him. Making matters more difficult for the Cirillo in this situation is the fact that his daughter turned 18 last month, before this case was presented to a grand jury.

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