- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

The horrific details of a Washington nurse’s killing and dismemberment, which authorities blame on a man she met online, have fueled concern over the dangers of Internet dating.

But both experts in domestic violence and Internet safety say the unfortunate truth is there’s probably little that 40-year-old Ingrid Lyne could have done differently.

The mother of three had been dating John Charlton, the man charged in her death this week, for approximately a month before she disappeared April 8. Her friends, family, and neighbors had all reportedly heard about her budding relationship and several knew she was headed to a baseball game with him on the night she went missing.

“In her case, the online dating piece is really almost irrelevant in what happened,” said Cindy Southworth, founder of the Safety Net Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “They could have met through mutual friends and she could have still ended up dead.”

One of the most touted tips for vetting an online dating prospect is conducting some version of a background check, either Internet sleuthing to confirm basic details the person provides — such as their job, or running a criminal-background check.

“You do need to do a fair amount of basic Internet legwork,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “Seeing if the facts add up, what people are telling you about themselves.”

Had Ms. Lyne looked deeply enough into Mr. Charlton’s background, she would have discovered an arrest record that included convictions for felony theft and aggravated robbery over the last decade.

It’s unclear whether Ms. Lyne was aware of her date’s criminal background, or if she had known about it if she would have avoided seeing him. But friends said Ms. Lyne seemed to be at ease with the relationship.

“She didn’t see any red flags,” friend Nancy Sivitilli told Seattle TV station KOMO. “She would have never, ever, ever taken a risk if she thought there was.”

But background checks tell the story of the past, not the future and Ms. Southworth cautioned not to put too much faith in such checks touted by online dating sites.

“It gives people a false sense of security when it comes back clean,” she said. “The majority of sexual violence offenders are never arrested and never convicted.”

Prosecutors charged Mr. Charlton on Wednesday with first-degree murder in Ms. Lyne’s death, saying he killed her, dismembered her body and drove to Seattle where her remains were found wrapped in trash bags in a recycle bin over the weekend. Inside her home, police found a pruning saw next to her bathtub.

Police said Mr. Charlton said during an interview with investigators that the pair had gone to a Mariners baseball game the night of April 8 and then returned to Ms. Lyne’s home in Reston, Washington. But he told investigators that he was got so drunk that night, he could not remember how they got back to her home or what happened after they arrived.

According to a statement of probably cause filed by Seattle Police Department detectives, Mr. Charlton said he thought he remembered the two having sex and that he assumed she had driven him back to Seattle, were he said he slept on the sidewalk.

Ms. Lyne’s car was later found in Seattle.

Charging documents filed later indicate that Mr. Charlton told police he was “not a normal person,” and was homeless and an alcoholic.

Ms. Sivitilli said after her friend’s death she wants to make sure women take precautions when going out with someone new.

“Take a picture,” she said in the KOMO interview. “Tell him, ‘If you’re not afraid then you shouldn’t be afraid of me taking a picture of you.’ Tell your friends what the plan is, where you’re going, a timeline. Do a check-in.”

Experts say it can be difficult to know how long users should keep their guard up when seeing a person they met online. A prospective date who pushes to meet in person very quickly, a fast escalation in the relationship on the part of one person, or asking significant favors of the date early on can all be potential warning signs, Mr. Kaiser said.

“Trusting your instincts and having your antenna up” can be one of the best defenses to falling victim to violent crime or scams carried out by people met through online dating, he said.

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