Danger lurks in online dating

02/06/2013 5:58 PM

05/16/2014 9:03 PM

MillionaireMatch.com dangles wealth and love with a few easy keystrokes.

The site is where a lovely 39-year-old pediatrician thought she found her match. He was a man who professed devotion, called her “princess” in emails and portrayed himself as an international businessman and a former Army Ranger.

Johnson County prosecutors give different descriptors for John Meredith Hodges. They say he’s a liar, a prescription drug addict and a swindler. He is charged with a string of felonies, including the first-degree murder of Franchesca Brown.

The chilling allegations unwound in a preliminary hearing this week, full of warnings for anyone seeking love online.

Brown’s body was found last September, wrapped up in a tarp and thrown into a patch of woods near College Boulevard. The South Carolina doctor came to Overland Park for a medical conference and to meet with Hodges. She had only seen him in person one other time, friends said at the hearings. Red flag.

Ladies, a man can ask the Internet how long it will take for you to die by suffocation. Another quick search can give tips on disposing of your dead body and ways of camouflaging it so your rotting flesh is less likely to smell.

Prosecutors contend Hodges performed both such searches in murdering Brown.

Turnabout is fair play. The same tools of the Internet can aid in staying safe from a dating predator.

In Kansas it takes more work, but Missouri is one of the states with online access to a plethora of public records. Go to

www.showmecourts.org/courts/casenet

. It’s free.

Drunken-driving convictions can be flagged. You can see if restraining orders have been taken out on your potential beloved. You can determine if your boyfriend-to-be actually is divorced or if he is just hiding his wedding ring. (Hodges has one ex-wife, one current one and a bevy of girlfriends, prosecutors said.)

Or you may find nothing. A man worthy of your time won’t mind a little checking. Despite its benefits, online dating circumvents the traditional safety measures that come when a trusted friend or a relative makes the introduction.

It’s not so much that the doctor was naive, prosecutors said. It was that Hodges was slick.

Shackled, led by deputies, he didn’t look too promising this week at the courthouse.

Either way, his stories of being a wheeler-dealer with business interests in South America made him the perfect fit for a dating website boasting members who are “CEOs, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models and Hollywood celebrities.”

It also claims that “anyone who earns $150,000 and above annually” qualifies as a millionaire. Right.

In other words, there is nothing special about the people on this website — in at least one case, not in a way you want to find out about.

Videos

Join the Discussion

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service