A longtime computer engineer for Arizona's court system was arrested on Tuesday after he was caught in a police sting trying to meet a 14-year-old girl at a Gilbert park for sex.
Merrill Barton Nelson III, 57, of Gilbert, an 11-year employee of the Arizona Supreme Court, was booked into jail following the afternoon park encounter.
In a scenario that's all too familiar in the computer age, the teen wasn't really a teen, but an undercover officer. Nelson was senior database architect who, according to his LinkedIn page, was "responsible for the design and creation of new SQL Server database backends for ALL courts in ALL counties of AZ Court systems."
Despite his computer savvy, Nelson's confessed deep desire to have sex with a 14-year-old drove him to computer stupidity, a booking sheet reveals. The "girl" he met online even told him she was "the cops," but Nelson didn't care, continuing to talk inappropriately with his online pen-pal and following through on the meeting.
Heather Murphy, spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court, would say only that Nelson had been put on administrative leave Wednesday morning.
Nelson placed an ad on Craigslist stating he was an older guy looking for a younger girl, and the "younger the better," records state. He wanted "friends with benefits" and "daddy/daughter role play."
A Gilbert police officer noticed the ad on February 4 and struck up an online conversation with the man who would later turn out to be Nelson.
At first, Nelson told the "girl" he wanted someone 18 or older. She told him she was 14, and he kept up the friendship while trying to figure out if his pal was actually in law enforcement.
"I informed him I was 'the cops,'" the officer wrote. "The subject continued to converse with me and asked if I was sexually active..."
This degenerated into lots of talk about Nelson's "cock" and what he wanted to do with it to her. He asked her probing questions about her sexual experience and asked for photos of her genitalia. Careless of any consequences of the computer record he was creating, he went into explicit detail about what he wanted.
Nelson told his pal that when his daughters were teenagers, he always "wanted" the friends they'd bring over. And he predicted that if his 16-year-old son brought a girlfriend to his house, "he will 'be trying to get into her pants.'"
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Cops tracked Nelson's email account to his Gilbert home and put surveillance on him. Then, Nelson "agreed to meet" with the alleged girl at a park at 2557 East Guadalupe Road. Police tailed him to the park. When they arrested him there, his phone still had one last message from his intended teen lover.
Police say Nelson admitted to everything, saying he wanted to have sex with a 14-year-old because it was "new, different, and immoral," records state.
He admitted that he "made a mistake."
He was booked into jail on one felony count of luring a minor for sexual exploitation.