Uniform key to identifying teen girl in sexting case

BEDFORD – Identifying a Bedford High School cheerleader’s uniform was the key that connected an alleged child-sexting case to Pennsylvania, police indicated this week.

On Friday, Bedford Area School District administrators said they weren’t aware the case involved one of their students. But Bedford Borough police said they used the Internet and worked with school officials to zero in on a possible victim and turn the case over to state police, who later charged New Jersey native Edward Gutierrez with scores of felonies.

Police said Gutierrez, 38, exchanged sexually explicit text messages and photographs with a 15-year-old area girl until Colorado authorities arrested him in a separate case.

When officers from the Jefferson County, Colo., Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations Unit contacted Bedford police, they had only a series of explicit cellphone photos, one featuring a girl in a blue-and-white Bedford cheerleader’s uniform, police said.

Bedford officers searched the Internet for other schools that could have used the uniform, Bedford Police Officer Brett Selapack said Friday.

“There’s a million different Bedfords nationwide,” Selapack said.

When the search revealed that Pennsylvania’s Bedford is the only one to use the colors and emblems seen in the photo, police enlisted high school officials to identify the girl.

“They had undergone a coaching change. … We didn’t have a coach that knew the cheerleader,” Selapack said. “Nobody knew this girl.”

Selapack said the team frequently changes uniforms, making quick identification more difficult. It was not clear Friday whether the uniform was current or outdated.

Administrators eventually provided an identity, which police forwarded to Colorado investigators. Gutierrez had been arrested there after an Internet sting led him to authorities at a Denver-area restaurant.

Interviewed by Colorado police, the Bedford-area girl acknowledged exchanging sexual texts and photos with Gutierrez after they met last year on Chat Hour, a chat website, police said in an affidavit.

Gutierrez was extradited to Pennsylvania from his New Jersey home this week to face nearly 200 charges of inappropriate contact.

Asked about the case – and the district’s response to one of its uniforms appearing in sexual photographs – Bedford Superintendent Allen Sell and Athletic Director Dan Baker said they weren’t closely familiar with the situation.

“The image of the school is always a concern,” Sell said Friday. “But I can’t really comment because I don’t know the circumstances in this particular case.”

Sell said school administrators across the country are concerned about students’ ability to contact strangers on the Internet.

High School Principal Kyle Kane did not return a call seeking comment, and a cheerleading coach’s name wasn’t available Friday.