Gainesville Man Arrested in Columbia County On Charges of Soliciting Minor for Sex

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An Alachua County man was arrested Saturday on charges of traveling to meet and solicit sex with a minor.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office arrested David Austin O’Neil, 33, of Gainesville, after he arranged to meet with a juvenile in Columbia County but instead was met by law enforcement, according to a sheriff’s office report.

The investigation began Thursday after two female students at Columbia High School told a school resource deputy that one of their former teachers began messaging them on their iPhones.

The messages made the students uncomfortable, but they did not reach the level of criminal activity at the time, according to the report.

CCSO Detectives then received a separate complaint from a parent that his or her daughter was messaged on Facebook in an attempt to meet to “hang out” with her. Neither the parents nor the daughter previously knew O’Neil, according to the report.

Detectives discovered that O’Neil knew the juvenile was a minor. His messages were explicit and unlawful as he solicited sexual acts, according to their report.

On Saturday, O’Neil arranged to meet the juvenile in Columbia County.

Instead, O’Neil met law enforcement and was arrested on charges of traveling to meet a minor and solicitation of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Murray Smith said cases like these aren’t common, because parents are increasingly teaching their children to be cautious of interactions with strangers on the Internet.

Smith said it was important the girls knew what to do in this situation.

“These three girls went to authority figures in their life and reported it,” Smith said. “And that’s what you’d hope to happen in a case like that.”

O’Neil was taken to Columbia County Detention Facility. His bond is currently $175,000.

About Aaron Albright

Aaron is a reporter for WUFT News. Reach him by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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