He had plans for his future

Steve Chapman

Evan Boettler

Parents of Aurora suicide victim urge greater protection for kids against online predators; education paramount
On Wednesday, Jan. 3, of this year, a young life, full of promise, came to an end. Evan Boettler, a 16-year-old student at Aurora High School, died by suicide after falling victim to an online predator. The predator had gained photos of Evan, according to a recent joint press release from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and the Aurora-Marionville Police Department, and threatened to release the pictures to Evan’s family, friends and others in the community if Evan didn’t pay a ransom. Evan, feeling he had no way to turn, took his own life a few hours after receiving the predator’s demand.
Evan was well liked by all who knew him
Evan’s parents, Brad and Kari Boettler, remember their son as someone who was well liked by those who knew him.
“Evan was a great kid,” they said. “He loved his family and his friends. He typically worked hard and played hard, especially in things he liked. He was well rounded; he liked going to plays but also loved hunting and fishing. He was kind, compassionate, and was loved and respected by many in our community.”
They also said he performed well in school, where he was involved both academically and athletically with the Aurora Youth Empowerment Program, FFA and soccer.
“Soccer was his favorite sport,” they said. “He even coached a local youth soccer team and refereed soccer games for the city.”
However, they added, Evan most loved adventuring in more rugged settings, which he was happy to help others enjoy as well.
“His real love was the outdoors,” Evan’s parents said.” Fishing, hunting, boating, hiking, camping, traveling; any type of adventure. He loved being able to share that with others, as well, by taking friends fishing, and hunting. This past year, he took a friend bowhunting and his friend harvested the ‘big one.’ Evan was proud and excited.”
Moreover, Evan had big plans for his future career.
“He had recently been talking about something in the construction industry,” his parents said. “Construction management was the most current topic he talked about.”
Evan’s friends and family left wondering “Why?”
Evan’s parents said the tragedy took them and everyone else who knew him by surprise.
“Evan had no signs of depression or any sort of issues that would be cause for him to take these actions,” they said. “He had plans for his future; we had talked about where we’d like to go on our next vacation. He and Brad were planning to return to Canada for a fishing trip. Over Christmas break, we spent a lot of time together, going to the Pink and White and Blue and Gold tournaments, and spending time with family. We were close as a family, and Evan was well known by friends, family, teachers, and people around the community. Afterwards, everyone was left looking for the ‘why?’”

Parents going public to prevent tragedy from happening to someone else
At the behest of Evan’s parents, the LCSO and AMPD released a statement about his death on Friday. March 15, in which they urged those who are also being pressured by people online to reach out for help. Evan’s parents said they asked the law enforcement agencies to issue the press release for a number of reasons.
“We have chosen to make this public for several reasons,” they said. “One, to inform our family, friends, and community, and to ease concerns that we all missed something with Evan.
Two, (we want) to educate parents and kids about a growing problem of criminals targeting teens, primarily boys age 14-17, and to encourage conversations about online safety. (Finally, we want) to raise awareness about the need for change in laws requiring social media platforms, to implement safeguards to protect our kids.”

Raising awareness of online predators
Evan’s parents also said there are many lessons to learn from what happened to Evan, and they hope that, by sharing his story, they will be able to spare someone else from having to mourn their child.
“We want to raise awareness that this type of criminal activity happens daily, and these perpetrators have finessed their techniques in finding their targets,” Evans parents said. “They target kids who are active in school, sports and who have strong family relationships; kids with something to lose, or at least to be made to feel this way. This gives them leverage.”
Evan’s parents also said kids need to be taught what to do if they encounter an online predator, as the likelihood that they will is growing.
“We would also like to ensure kids know what to do ‘when’ not ‘if’ it happens,” they said, “and help to educate them about the resources available for situations like this. We monitored technology use with our kids. We had open dialogue with them about using social media responsibly. We can only teach our kids what we know, and we had no clue there were people out there targeting kids in this way.”
Finally, Evan’s parents said, more needs to be done to ensure that kids are safe when they use social media.
“We aren’t necessarily pointing blame at social media platforms,” they said, “but we are saying there must be safeguards implemented to help prevent things like this. Social media companies should be able to advertise on their platforms, what to do in case something like this happens.”

Predator most likely located outside of U.S.
The investigation into who targeted Evan continues, but Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay said that, like many other online criminals, the predator is most likely operating from outside of the U.S., putting them out of reach of local law enforcement.
“All indications are that it was probably someone out of this country,” he said. “Sadly, we will probably never know who it was, and we will likely never be able to make them … pay the price for this tragedy.”
DeLay also said what happened to Evan is not unheard of elsewhere in Lawrence County, or even rare.
“This is not an isolated incident,” he said. “Similar incidents have happened to residents of Lawrence County, and they happen nationwide all the time.”
Caution, DeLay said, should always be practiced when communicating with strangers over the Internet.
“Never, ever provide any information to anyone that you are not 100 percent able to verify,” he said. “Most places you deal with on a regular basis will never ask for your personal information online. Your banks, stores, insurance, taxes, Social Security will already have that information and should never be asking it from you.”
DeLay also urged people to speak with their children and other vulnerable people about the dangers they can face online.
“Just please talk to your kids, talk to your parents, anyone that will listen and remind them there are people out there who want to take advantage of you every chance they get,” he said. “Play life smart and don’t be a victim.”



Lawrence County Record

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Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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