High school senior dies by suicide after falling victim to online sextortion, family says
SAN JOSE, Calif. (Gray News) – A high school senior in California died by suicide after he fell victim to online sextortion, according to police.
The family of 17-year-old Ryan Last, who died March 5, is speaking out about the tragedy in hopes of warning other families about the dangers of online sextortion.
Sextortion is a threat made by an individual stating that they will publicly expose the victim’s explicit photos and videos unless the victim pays money.
In a video from the San Jose Police Department, Last’s mother Pauline Stuart said her son was a straight-A student set to graduate high school in May. Last was planning to attend Washington State University and major in agricultural biotechnology.
The individual who extorted Last, who he met online in February, pretended to be a young girl who was interested in him.
“They ‘catfished’ my son through flirting and showing interest,” Stuart said.
Eventually, the individual threatened to share Last’s nude photos with his friends and family unless he paid thousands of dollars, which he did not have. Within hours of the individual making the demands, Last took his own life.
“Unfortunately, Ryan ended up taking his life due to the extreme pressure that was put on him by the person demanding money and threatening to distribute explicit photos of him,” Stuart said. “He chose to end his life rather than have the pictures distributed on social media. He believed his reputation would be destroyed, and he was terrified of what his friends and family would think.”
Stuart said she thought she took appropriate measures to keep her children safe online by implementing parental locks and knowing her sons’ passwords.
In a Facebook post from March, Last’s father echoed that sentiment.
“We thought we did everything correctly protecting our boys from any online threats. But Ryan still became the victim of an online scam that ended with blackmail. In the end he got so embarrassed and scared that he only saw one way out,” the post reads.
The family is now urging parents to talk to their children about online sextortion, and to let their children know that they can come to them if they make a mistake.
“Please stress with your child that you love them, and if something like this happens that your family can work it out,” Stuart said. “We want to get Ryan’s story out there so that no other family has to go through what we have.”
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