A U.S. Army soldier traveled over a thousand miles to a 14-year-old girl in Maine and took her away from home — twice, federal prosecutors said. He’s accused of doing so to engage in sex acts with her.
Christopher Meza was 20 and stationed at Fort Hood in Texas when he met the then-13-year-old on an online gaming platform and started messaging her over the social platform Discord in late 2020 and in early 2021, according to court documents.
Their messages and video chats “became increasingly sexual,” and they discussed getting married and living together in Texas, a government trial brief says.
Before Meza, who is now 22, is accused of taking the girl away from Maine on two separate occasions, he suggested the teen should go by a different name, lie about her age to make their “relationship more socially acceptable” and even discussed becoming her legal guardian, according to prosecutors.
After a two-day trial, a jury on Nov. 1 found the former soldier guilty of one count of enticement of a child, two counts of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and two counts of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine announced in a news release.
James Nixon, a federal defender representing Meza, declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on Nov. 2.
In a trial brief submitted by Nixon on behalf of Meza on Sept. 26, Nixon wrote his client planned to “rely on the presumption of innocence” at the jury trial.
The girl goes missing from her home
In September 2021, the girl, who was 14 at the time, never returned home — prompting her mother to call police, the government trial brief says.
An investigation revealed Meza, while on “temporary leave from his Army post,” drove from Texas to Maine, picked up the teenager and drove her out of state, according to prosecutors. They said the two had plans to make stops along the East Coast.
Police found the pair inside a hotel room in Massachusetts days later on Sept. 17, 2021, the trial brief says.
More than two months later, the girl disappeared from her father’s home in Maine on Nov. 22, 2021, according to prosecutors.
After the girl’s parents hired a private investigator based in Texas, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division got involved and met with Meza, who was at Fort Hood and “acknowledged the (teen) was at his apartment,” the trial brief says.
The girl was found at an off-base apartment that had a computer desk, chair and air mattress inside, the trial brief says.
In an interview with an Army Criminal Investigation Division agent, Meza said he performed sex acts with the teen, who was “taken into police custody as a runaway,” according to the trial brief.
Three of the five counts Meza was found guilty of carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors said.
The other two counts carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, according to the release.
Any information related to potential child sexual exploitation can be reported at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline here.
In May, Fort Hood was renamed to Fort Cavazos to honor Gen. Richard Edward Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general to serve in the Army, NPR reported.
The change stemmed from a Department of Defense initiative to rename military bases associated with those who served in the Confederate Army, including Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, whom Fort Hood was first named after, according to NPR.
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