Investigators say dark side of advertising website led accused rapist to victims

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PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. -- A man accused of raping women in several Kansas City stairwells is now facing charges for those crimes. Jackson County prosecutors say in the last two years, 29-year-old Tajuan Barnes raped and sodomized four women. Court documents say an online advertisement on the site Backpage led Barnes to one of the women who was assaulted.

Backpage is an advertising website with classifieds similar to what's found on the back of a newspaper. While there are typical categories like rentals and real estate, investigators say there's also a dark side, or adult side, to the site.

Statistics show Backpage hosts about 70 percent of the web's online prostitution ads and law enforcement here in the metro have worked some of those cases. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Seufert said Platte County has seen its fair share of online crime.

"Backpage specifically, we've had a few cases. It's not unusual for us to have cases where there have been people who might go online and it winds up the person wants to do something bad to the other person," he said.

The Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force operates out of Platte County. Investigators often scour the web, even posting their own ads on sites like Backpage to find would-be criminals.

He said many of the posts are worded carefully to skirt the law.

"It's not necessarily illegal but sort of on the line between legal and illegal," Seufert said.

Using IP addresses and account information, investigators try to stop something criminal before it happens.

"Often times our officers will find out about the various goings on and intercept the people as they're traveling to go commit the crime," Seufert said.

Backpage is a global site. The home page is similar to Craigslist, but investigators say you have to pay to post on the site.