By Travis Uresk
Vernal, Ut.-On 6/19/23, A Vernal man was arrested for driving to Indiana to pick up a 17-year-old teenage girl he met on social media and bring her back to the Uintah Basin.
Through initial investigative efforts, officers were able to locate the missing juvenile in a trailer park at 126 North 500 East in Vernal, Utah.
The investigation found that the juvenile lived there with 23-year-old Matthew Brian Barrow, a Vernal resident when the 17-year-old female was found and taken to the Ashley Regional Medical Center for evaluation.
"Officers located Matthew, and he expressed he had met the victim while working as a suicide crisis worker over the Internet. Matthew explained he had gotten the juvenile from Indiana and brought her back to Vernal," according to a police booking affidavit.
Barrow allegedly claimed he had posted on a Snapchat story that he "had experience with suicidal thoughts from his past and was looking to help people." He claimed he had communicated with about 20 juveniles nationwide about this, but they had all since blocked him on social media.
The juvenile told the Detective she became very close to Matthew and seemed to have a connection. She told the Detective about her problems at home, and Matthew offered to help her.
The juvenile and Matthew had known each other for about four months, and about a month before, they began to make plans for Matthew to come to Indiana to get her.
She told the Detective about five days prior, Matthew showed up at her house in Indiana at 3 or 4 in the morning when she snuck out a window to meet Matthew in an alleyway behind her home.
Matthew was interviewed at the Vernal Police Station and said he had met the young girl on Snapchat. He said he had put out a Snapchat story telling people he had experienced suicidal thoughts from his past and was looking to help people.
Matthew communicated with about twenty juveniles all across the country about these things but said he had never met up with or gone to these other individuals and had since blocked him on Snapchat.
Matthew said he and the juvenile hit it off, and their relationship became romantic in nature. Matthew said eventually, their conversations turned sexual. Matthew said the juvenile had sent him nude images via Snapchat.
Matthew also said he had shared nude images of himself with the juvenile.
Matthew said about a week prior he had driven to Indiana and went to her house. He said the juvenile left her home and got into his car, and they left. Matthew stated he had not obtained permission from the juvenile's parents to take her. Matthew expressed he knew what he did wasn't right, but he did it to help her.
Matthew said after leaving the juvenile's house, they went to a motel in the same town the juvenile is from in Indiana. Matthew said the next day, they headed to Utah and stayed a night in a motel in Nebraska before making it back to Vernal, Utah.
Matthew told me that their intention in Vernal was to live as spouses until she turned 18 they would get married and have a family. Matthew said he was not a pedophile and that he knew she had to turn 18 before they got serious.
With this information, Matthew was transported to the Uintah County Jail, where he was booked on charges of kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a minor.
The charge of kidnapping is due to Matthew moving the juvenile a long distance across state lines without the juvenile legal guardian's permission. This charge is a 2nd Degree Felony.
The sexual exploitation charge is due to Matthew admitting to receiving and possessing nude images of the juvenile female.
There is still an active investigation, and physical, forensic, and digital evidence is still being collected. There is an extremely high likelihood that further criminal charges will be forthcoming.