Affidavit: Winona man accused of attempting to solicit minors for sex

The man allegedly used chat apps to communicate with children.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 11:40 AM CST
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SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A Winona man was arrested after authorities allegedly caught him attempting to solicit a teenager for sex online.

According to an arrest affidavit from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Newell Vandergriff, 67, of Winona posed as “Mike” on the dating apps “Meet24″ and “TextNow” which he was using to communicate with minors in a sexually explicit manner and attempting to meet with female children. The affidavit states that investigators were contacted by members of the “Online Predator Poachers” organization to report an incident involving Vandergriff.

The Online Predator Poachers organization puts together predator sting’s to catch pedophiles wanting to meet with minors for sexual matters. Aubrey Alexander and other organization members organized the sting involving Newell Vandergriff, where they posed as a 13-year-old girl and had been communicating with Vandergriff.

Submitted chat logs show Vandergriff texting the 13-year-old decoy about how he’s been with four other minors, one of them as young as 10 years old. On October 13 Vandergriff allegedly met with the minor at a Pilot Travel Center where he reportedly “placed his arm around her waist and told her to pick out a drink and beef jerky.” When they approached the register, members of the Online Predator Poachers said they confronted him about the meetup. Vandergriff left the store shortly after.

The Online Predator Poachers claim that this isn’t the first time they’ve observed Vandergriff allegedly meeting up with minors. According to the organization’s founder, Alex Rosen, he had a previous confrontation with Vandergriff two months prior to the October incident when Vandergriff allegedly attempted to meet with an 11-year-old girl he met online in Big Sandy. This incident in August was also a sting operation organized by the Online Predator Poacher’s where they say Vandergriff allegedly admitted to wanting to have sex with the 11-year-old decoy.

Investigators were able to identify the profile photo of “Mike” as being the same as Newel Vandergriff’s drivers license photo. After reviewing footage provided by Alex Rosen, an arrest warrant was issued for the online solicitation of minor under 14.

Vandergriff was booked into the Smith County Sheriff’s Office on November 19 and is being held on a $350,000 bond.