Dating app led to Hurlburt Field airman's alleged rape of Alabama child

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

HURLBURT FIELD — The 25-year-old airman charged recently with the October 2020 rape of an 11-year-old Alabama girl met the victim through the digital dating app Badoo, according to an affidavit filed in Alabama's Morgan County District Court.

Also according to the affidavit, the victim's parents did not learn of the alleged rape until four months later, when her father intercepted a friend request posted by the man charged in the case — Air Force Senior Airman Keith Williams of a Hurlburt Field maintenance squadron — on a Facebook page the father had set up some time before for his three children. The page's profile included a photo of the three children.

Previously:Hurlburt Field airman detained in Alabama on rape, child sex allegations

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keith Williams, 25, assigned to a maintenance squadron at Hurlburt Field, has been charged with the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Alabama. The rape was discovered after Williams posted a friend request on a Facebook account used by his victim and her siblings.

The victim's father saw the friend request Feb. 12, and posing as his 11-year-old daughter, responded by asking, "Do I know you?"

According to the affidavit, Williams responded with "(Name redacted) from Badoo?" He went on to describe what the victim was wearing on the night of the incident and details about the backyard of her home. From there, Williams made some salacious remarks about the victim referencing the rape, and wrote, "Ima (I'm going to) definitely marry you in the future lol (laughing out loud)."

"He also told the juvenile he lives in Florida because that is where he works but can leave his job every now and then," according to the affidavit from a police detective in the northern Alabama city of Decatur, where the alleged rape occurred.

Immediately after the Feb. 12 Facebook exchange, the affidavit states, the victim's mother asked her daughter about Williams, and it was then that the girl disclosed Williams' October visit. The Decatur Police Department investigation was opened the same day when police were told the girl had met Williams online and had sexual intercourse with him in the backyard of her family's home.

From the archives:2020: Airman arrested on fugitive warrant has been at Hurlburt for more than a year

The  investigation included a March 1 forensic interview at the Morgan County Children's Advocacy Center. A forensic interview is a structured conversation led by a child welfare professional designed to produce information that can be used in court.

During her interview, the victim "disclosed that she began chatting with Williams after she met him online via a dating app called Badoo," the detective wrote in the affidavit. Also during the interview, the girl identified Williams through his Facebook profile photo, according to the affidavit.

As the investigation proceeded, the Decatur police detective obtained search warrants for Williams' Facebook profile and for the Badoo dating app.

According to the case file in Morgan County Circuit Court, a judge signed off on the issuance of arrest warrants in the case on April 29. In addition to the first-degree rape charge, Williams also is charged with electronic solicitation of a child and traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act.

Williams was arrested May 16 and released from the Morgan County Jail after posting a $60,000 bond. Williams was subsequently placed under the control of the Air Force and is prohibited from leaving Alabama.

In Alabama, first-degree rape carries a penalty that can range from 10 years to life in prison. Electronic solicitation of a child carries a penalty of between two and 20 years in prison, and traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act is punishable by up to life in prison.

At Hurlburt Field, Williams is a member of the 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The squadron is part of the 1st Special Operations Wing, the host unit at Hurlburt Field. 

A spokesman at Badoo, in response to a recent email from the Northwest Daily News with inquiries regarding how an 11-year-old girl obtained access to the site, said the dating app "employs a variety of systems to prevent anyone under the age of 18 from registering to or using any of its platforms," including both automated and human moderation.

Tristan Piniero, head of brand marketing and communications at Badoo, went on to say that the company always collaborates with police investigations involving the app.

Within Badoo, Piniero said, a photo moderation system prevents the uploading of file photos of people who appear to be under the age of 18, unless the photo also includes an adult. Photos shared by people using the app, however, are beyond the reach of that moderation system, Piniero noted.

Under certain circumstances, Piniero added, Badoo will monitor messages and profile text from its members to search for behavior that indicates breaches of its age policy. Also, he said, Badoo members can report suspected policy violations for action by the company, and the company itself routinely conducts random checks of users.