Online Gaming Marriage Leads To Real-World Criminal Charges

A 54-year-old Massachusetts man is in police custody in Detroit after allegedly initiating multiple sexual encounters with his virtual bride - a 13-year-old girl he married in the online role-playing game Runescape.

Free-to-play online role-playing game Runescape is home to a close-knit group of devoted players who spend countless hours battling and socializing in the virtual realm. Sometimes a pair of players grows so close they decide to hold a virtual marriage. Sometimes these virtual nuptials are taken too far.

According to Detroit police, John W. Phillips, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts first met his 13-year-old virtual wife through Runescape, where the pair spent a great deal of time chatting back and forth. Authorities say the man attempted to mail the young girl a cell phone so the two could communicate outside of the game. When the attempted mailing failed, Phillips travelled to Detroit in February of last year to deliver the phone personally.

Phillips allegedly had sex with the teenager multiple times, once in a hotel, once in his van, and once in her own home.

The girl's mother, who worked multiple jobs and wasn't home often, contacted police after finding her daughter exchanging texts with someone using a cell phone she was not supposed to have. An investigation was launched.

Police say Phillips eluded capture by hiding at his father's house in upstate New York, dying his hair and growing out his beard to throw the authorities off his scent. Phillips was eventually captured with the help of Michigan State Police, Wayne County Prosecutors, federal prosecutors, and U.S. Secret Service agents.

Williams is currently in police custody, with a pretrial hearing scheduled for Thursday. He is charged with 11 felonies, including sexually abusive behavior, sexual assault, and accosting a child for immoral purposes. He faces four to twenty years in prison.

"It is easy for children to be contacted in nontraditional ways," (Michigan State Police Lt. Tom) Kish said. "Internet use has to be monitored."

Man accused of having sex with Detroit girl he wed in video game [The Detroit News]