The Denton County Sheriff's Office.

The Denton County Sheriff's Office.

One of Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree’s deputies getting arrested on a charge of online solicitation of minors for sex is what prompted him to have his investigators join the task force that made headlines this week for nabbing 13 people on charges of online solicitation.

Former sheriff’s office Sgt. Weston Jordan was arrested last year in Tarrant County and charged with online solicitation of a minor. A task force that included the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office investigated him. An arrest affidavit accused Jordan of using Craigslist to arrange a sexual meetup with a 16-year-old boy.

Murphree said at the time he was “shocked and ashamed” by the arrest. Jordan was fired, and Denton County cooperated with the investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

Tracy Murphree mug.JPG

Tracy Murphree

Since then, Murphree said, his office has been a member of the task force, made up of various agencies in North Texas and national agencies, such as the FBI and U.S. Homeland Security.

“It takes a very unique cop to do this type of stuff,” Murphree said. “I’m glad we have men and women who are willing to do this work. It’s got to wear on them mentally and emotionally.”

Similar to how they investigated Jordan, authorities pose as underage children online and work toward setting up a time and place for sex with the soliciting adults.

Murphree said his investigators involved in the task force, which this week was referred to as the Joint Online Solicitation Operation, are specially trained to conduct these types of inquiries.

Denton County has been involved with at least 23 arrests on charges of online solicitation in the past year. That includes arrests in July, when the sheriff’s office announced 10 people were arrested on the second-degree felony charge.

Court records show all 10 of those people were indicted by grand juries on their online solicitation charges. All of them still have active cases against them working through Denton County district courts.

“The anonymity online and [in] these chat rooms, it emboldens them,” Murphree said.

On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office announced 13 more people were arrested on the same second-degree felony charges of online solicitation of minors.

One of them, Chad Alan Hightower, is a former Wise County sheriff’s deputy who in 2016 was found guilty of taking nude photographs of two convicted sex offenders who were assigned to his watch. He pleaded guilty to unreasonable search and seizure.

Another, Donald Noska Jr., worked at the University of North Texas as an administrative coordinator in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.

“It’s people you see every day,” Murphree said.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.