Police encourage online dating safety after Polk County man’s murder

Haley Bustos

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Law enforcement officers are cautioning people to be careful when using online dating sites and apps.

On Friday police find the body of a 27-year-old man who had been shot to death in his Sunset Avenue apartment in Auburndale. Investigators say Adam Hilarie was lured to his death through an online dating site. The victim went on the site “Plenty of Fish” to find romance. He had no idea a first date would be his last.

Auburndale police said 18-year old Haley Bustos, of Auburndale, lured Hilarie in through the site so three men could rob him. On Friday Police found Hilarie shot to death in his apartment on Sunset Avenue.

After a date, Bustos, along with the other suspects, returned to Hilarie’s apartment Friday to rob him, which ultimately led to his murder, police said.

The other three suspects are Andre Warner, 26, of Auburndale; Gary Terrell Gray, 31, of Lakeland; and Joshua Ellington, 26, of Lake Alfred. They were all denied bond in court Tuesday.

The incident is raising questions about the safety of using online dating sites. “There (are) potential dangers to it. I think that if you’re in that situation of online dating, you never really know who they are truly,” college student Kara Donnelly said.

That’s why police say it’s important to be cautious when using dating sites and apps. 8 On Your Side asked police for advice for those looking for love online. “It’s OK for you to play detective if there ever was a time you need to do it,” Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross said.

Gross recommended online daters do their research. Check a potential date’s social media accounts, Google him or her, and find out as much as possible. “They can be who they want to be, and that’s why you gotta be extremely careful,” Sgt. Gross said.

Second, be careful what you share about yourself, he said. “Your profile, how you manage it, how much information on it; you stay in control of what you put in there,” Gross said.

When you decide to meet, do so in a public place. Let someone know where you’re going – and with who. Police say it’s never a good idea to take someone home after the first date.

“You need to get to know them better so you can judge their character and also judge their intentions,” Auburndale Deputy Chief Andy Ray said.

Most important, trust your intuition, officials said.




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