El Paso long-haul trucker, Travis Wayne Vavra, 60, has been sentenced to life in prison. Vavra had put up flyers in gas stations and convenience stores in 2015 offering to let boys travel the country with him in exchange for gifts, cash and even season passes to a local water park.

Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash
Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash
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This was a case of something spreading on social media that actually led to a predator being taken off the streets. In fact, the FBI even thanked “concerned citizens” for their help in stopping the abuse.

FBI El Paso
FBI El Paso
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In 2015, people were sharing on social media photos of a suspicious flyer that had been appearing in local stores:

FBI El Paso
FBI El Paso
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“Parents and Boys. If your kids want some thing (sic) to do at school breaks, I’m am a truck driver. If your kids want to see different places I’m willing to let them go with me. My trucks have GPS tracking so you know where we are at all times. I pay them $100 a week teaches them responsibility…this keeps me from being bored. If interested call.”

Obviously, that’s creepy AF.  The boy who eventually went to the authorities to report the abuse began traveling with Vavra in 2015 after his family responded to one of the flyers. According to the criminal complaint, Vavra offered season passes to Wet-n-Wild Waterworld in exchange for the boy’s…companionship? Honestly, the number of red flags in this whole situation is staggering.

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Which brings us to this uncomfortable aspect of this story: what was this boy’s parents THINKING? The parents only come up as “co-victims” in the coverage of this story.  Clearly, there was some poor decision-making going on. But was it poor enough to be considered negligent? Criminal?

Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash
Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash
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The fact that nothing much is said about the parent’s role makes me think that some kind of deal was struck for their full co-operation. Or, maybe investigators believed that the family was innocent. Extremely, extremely gullible, but innocent.  An FBI witness testified that the family had developed a friendship of some kind with Vavra and looked at him as a type of grandfather figure to the boy.

The witness also said Vavra gifted the boy with money, cell phones, video games, and…here’s the most concerning part…had helped pay some of the family’s bills. All those gifts are major red flags and, in retrospect, clearly sexual grooming.  That the family was ALSO benefitting financially from this “arrangement” is troubling. The victim is either 16 or 17 years old and presumably in the custody of his parents.

But, if the victim had been a nine-year-old girl instead of a nine-year-old boy it makes you wonder if the parents would have been seen as “innocent victims” or as parties to sexual trafficking.

Goosebumps and other bodily reactions, explained