LAWRENCE, Kan. — Court documents credit the keen ears of a Kansas middle school teacher who overheard students’ conversations, leading to a criminal investigation.
“People are snapping or taking photos. Perpetrators are actually paying kids to take pictures of themselves,” Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said.
The kids they’re targeting are young, according to case recently filed case in Kansas where a suspect contacted girls over social media who were as young as 11 and 12 years old.
An investigation uncovered illicit and disturbing messages from a 43-year-old Lawrence man who was carrying on conversations with the children.
Court documents detail how the man reached out to Lawrence middle schoolers using the social media app Snapchat.
Those same court records also say the suspect, 43-year-old Kenneth Soap, used money transfer apps like Cashapp and Venmo to pay multiple underage girls for explicit photos
It’s a situation that a listening teacher uncovered, according to court documents.
The Liberty Memorial Central Middle School teacher alerted a school resource officer about an overheard conversation that happened sometime in January.
According to court documents, the conversation was about Snapchat and a man with the username “djsoap” who was reaching out to four preteen students.
Later, investigators uncovered disturbing conversations with 11- and 12-year-old victims, including a call where one girl “reported she heard djsoap say he was going to rape [an 11-year-old student] and mentioned he was drunk,” court documents say.
Investigators discovered “djsoap” had more victims and offered money transfers for photos and videos, court documents say. He promised one girl money by asking, “If she was ‘finna do some hauls’ with him and said he wanted to spoil her,” according to court records.
“Djsoap said he would ‘treat u so good’ and said he was old enough for [her] to call him ‘daddy,'” according to court documents.
Valdez would not comment specifically about the case but said parents need to stay vigilant about their child’s social media use by balancing that youthful push for independence with the need for protection from predators.
In this case, according to court documents, that teacher and school resource officer provided that protection.
“It can be a parent. It can be an older sibling. It can be a teacher. It can be a coach. It can be someone that is watching that child who the child has a good rapport with,” Valdez said. “And they start talking about it, what’s either happening to them or they’re seeing it happening to a friend.”
“We find that that’s what they’re doing and they’re starting at a younger and a younger age. But you also have to monitor it because literally it’s a device that anybody can communicate with your child on,” Valdez said.
When booked into jail, Soap listed his address as the Lawrence Community Shelter.
He faces a long list of felony charges: one count of aggravated human trafficking, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, two counts of aggravated trading in child pornography, four counts of attempted exploitation of a child, and one count of sexual extortion.
Several of the charges are off-grid felonies, which means that, if convicted, Soap could face life in prison.
A spokesperson for Lawrence Public Schools released this statement when asked for comment on the situation:
“There is nothing more important to Lawrence Public Schools than the safety of our students. Our educators and support staff change lives through their commitment to the achievement, well-being, and success of all students.
“The district also is fortunate to have a strong, collaborative relationship with the Lawrence, Kansas Police Department and the six school resource officers assigned to our secondary schools. The Lawrence community understands that keeping our children safe is a collective responsibility.
“We want to continue to urge anyone aware of a safety concern to report it,” according to the statement.