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Austin Woman Charged with Internet Stalking

Posted at: 01/14/2013 7:04 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a case that involved scenarios of violent sexual assault and murder.

Now, an Austin woman faces charges for making the threats. The victim was half-a-country away.

In the digital age, crime has gone high-tech.

"We certainly see a lot of harassment-type cases with the advent of Facebook and Twitter,” said Austin police captain Dave McKichan.

Sheryl Finley, 39, faces charges for allegedly sending threatening messages to a New York woman using a Facebook account created under a false name.

"We need to take the harassment and the threats that occur via those digital means very seriously," said police captain Dave McKichan.

Finley is accused of sending messages that implied threats of rape, assault and murder.

"Often times those networking sites will lead to more serious crimes," captain Dave McKichan told us.

The victim hired an internet security company to look into the threats -- and it led investigators to Finley's log-in times on computers at Riverland Community College and the Austin public library.

"Anything you do can and will be searchable," Blake Zietz told us. Zietz is a technical consultant at Simplified Technology Solutions in Austin, and says it's hard to hide in cyberspace.

"Anybody who has a computer and has some novice knowledge, if they spend enough time on their unit they can virtually track anything a person is doing," Zietz said.

Even if there's an attempt to cover it up.

“It's always traceable. You fine a certain address. From there you work backwards. It's no different than retracing your steps if you go through a forest," said technical consultant Blake Zietz.

And it doesn't go away over time.

"After so long you have to dig for it more. Other than that no, it's still there. “If you don't want your mother to see it, don't post it," Blake Zietz recommended.

It’s a rule that's not limited to your mother.

"Or even the police,” Blake Zietz said.

“We do take it very seriously" added the Austin police department’s Dave McKichan.

Prosecutors aren’t commenting on why Sheryl Finley allegedly sent the threats to the New York woman.

Finley faces felony and gross misdemeanor "stalking" charges. She’s been released from jail after posting bond.