Georgia Snapchat stalker gets life in prison for attack that almost killed 15-year-old girl

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A Georgia man convicted of stalking a 15-year-old girl on Snapchat before brutally attacking her in her family’s home has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty, court records show.

Zachary Iona, 22, met the victim on the smartphone app in 2022 and groomed her until she invited him over.

He arrived with duct tape, rope and a knife, then gagged her and sexually assaulted her before stabbing her 86 times all over her body, including her face, according to local reports.

SOUTH CAROLINA FAMILY OF BOY, 13, WHO DIED BY SUICIDE SUES SNAPCHAT OVER SEXTORTION SCHEME

Zachary Iona gwinett mugshot

Zachary Iona, 22, pictured in his Gwinnett County, Georgia, booking photo. Iona pleaded guilty last week to a seven-count indictment after a brutal attack that nearly killed a 15-year-old girl. (Gwinnett County)

Iona left the severely injured girl for dead.

However, she had the strength to call 911. She survived the horror and spoke at Iona’s sentencing, telling the court she considers it a blessing to be alive, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.

The app Iona used to find his victim is also how police tracked him down, according to authorities. They found a picture of him on her phone. Then they found evidence in his car, including a roll of duct tape and blood.

Iona pleaded guilty to all charges in a seven-count indictment Thursday. Charges included rape, aggravated assault, and carrying of a knife while committing a felony.

As part of a plea deal, Iona will be eligible for release after serving 35 years, followed by five years of parole and registering as a sex offender, court records show.

TEENS ARE TURNING TO SNAPCHAT’S ‘MY AI’ FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT, WHICH DOCTORS WARN AGAIN

a silhouetted hand holds a phone with the snapchat app loading screen over a snapchat logo

In this photo iIlustration, the Snapchat social media logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a computer screen showing a Snapchat logo. Authorities said Zachary Iona groomed the 15-year-old victim on the app before she invited him over and the attack took place. (Chesnot/Getty Images)

The terms of the deal also ban him from contacting anyone under the age of 18 or even possessing pictures of children.

“This should be a warning to our young people to beware,” Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “As this case demonstrates, not everyone you meet on social media has your best interest at heart.”

Social media accounts under Iona’s name show he attempted to attract an online audience with music and gaming videos but had just a couple of hundred followers.

The victim reportedly had to undergo multiple surgeries and physical therapy to regain her ability to walk.

HOW SCAMMERS ARE USING YOUR SNAPCHAT AND TIKTOK IN THEIR AI SCHEMES

A phone, several apps

Experts warn that predators are meeting child victims on social media and then abducting them in person. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

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The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has warned of a growing threat involving minors targeted online by strangers.

Staca Shehan, the organization’s vice president, told FOX 5 that predators are increasingly picking up their child victims in person after meeting them through apps.

“Children are being enticed,” she said. 

The victims are more often girls than boys, she said.

However, boys are increasingly targeted under “sextortion” schemes over the app. Crooks coax victims into sharing personal information, including nude photos, and then threaten them and demand money.

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