COLLINGSWOOD – A Florida man knew a 12-year-old borough girl was a minor when he met the child near her school and took her to Philadelphia to be sexually assaulted, authorities say.
Liam Heim, 21, and the girl met online and communicated in “a ‘dating’ context” through an online chat system for gamers, according to a criminal complaint.
In the conversations, Heim allegedly said “that he knows (the girl’s) age and that he knows the consequences,” according to a probable cause statement for the Gulfport man’s arrest.
“He continues by saying that he is just following his heart,” says the statement by Collingswood Police Detective William Lyons.
It says Heim traveled more than 1,000 miles to meet the Collingswood Middle School student on Thursday afternoon. The two were found Friday in a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport.
The complaint identifies the victim only as K.S.
The Courier-Post is not identifying the girl because she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault. Previous Courier-Post coverage of this case used her name and photograph because authorities were trying to find the child and had not yet said she was assaulted.
According to the probable cause statement, K.S.’s “best friend” told police the girl had been using an online app called Discord to chat with a man in Florida.
The chat showed “numerous conversations between the two which appear to be in a ‘dating’ context, along with photographs of both K.S. and the adult male,” says Lyons’ statement.
Heim told investigators he was “the leader/creator of a group” on the Discord website, and he had begun chatting about six weeks earlier with K.S., a group member, according to an affidavit from a federal investigator.
“Heim stated that he knew it wasn’t right to talk to her because of her age,” says the affidavit by Special Agent Joshua Conrad of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Heim identified the girl as a 13-year-old in group chats, the affidavit notes.
Other group members told Heim “his behavior was inappropriate because of the minor’s age and Heim agreed, but found it difficult to say no to her,” according to Conrad.
“Some of the conversations became sexual in nature,” according to Conrad’s statement. Heim also said K.S. “sent him provocative photos.”
“Heim stated that he didn’t ask for them but didn’t discourage the behavior because he didn’t want to mess things up,” the federal agent’s affidavit says.
Heim told investigators he traveled to Collingswood with a binder that “contained representations of his visions and thoughts.”
K.S. attended school until its dismissal at 1 p.m. Thursday, the girl’s friend told police.
K.S. and Heim allegedly met at Knight Park on Collings Avenue, which is across the street from the middle school, according to Lyons’ statement.
Surveillance cameras showed them at the Collingswood PATCO station shortly after 2 p.m., en route to Philadelphia, authorities said.
According to the federal affidavit, Heim and K.S. ate at a restaurant, then walked around the city before taking an Uber to a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport. Heim said they engaged in sexual activity while spending about 36 hours at the hotel, the affidavit says.
“Heim stated that he felt like this was wrong and that he wished he had said no
to her requests and her affection,” according to the affidavit. “Heim stated that he might as well try even if it was wrong.”
Investigators located Heim and K.S. after tracking his cellphone to a Bartram Avenue hotel, authorities say.
The girl “provided a videotaped statement in which she stated she met Heim in Collingswood and traveled to Philadelphia, where he sexually assaulted her,” according to Lyons’ statement. Heim also acknowledged taking the girl from Collingswood to Philadelphia for a sexual encounter, the statement says.
Heim is charged in Camden County with kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child.
He faces federal charges of transportation of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity and interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Heim showed no emotion during a brief appearance Monday in federal court in Philadelphia.
He wore a drab green jail uniform and had his hands cuffed behind his back as he was led into the courtroom with two accused drug dealers. The other inmates casually glanced around the room as Heim stared at the floor.
He was ordered held in federal custody in Philadelphia while he awaits a bail hearing Thursday.