BECKLEY — A Mercer County man was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for a sex crime against a minor, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Mike Stuart announced Monday.

Joshua Kevin Laxton, 29, of Lashmeet was sentenced to 57 months in prison for travel in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor. Following his release from prison, Laxton will be required to serve 15 years of supervised release and will have to register as a sex offender, according to United States Attorney Mike Stuart.

“Horrific,” Stuart said. “Crimes against children are the other pandemic. My prosecutors and our federal, state and local investigators are working tirelessly to protect West Virginia’s children from predators like Laxton. My office will prosecute child predators to the fullest extent of the law.”

Laxton previously admitted that on Sept. 14, 2019, he began communicating via text messages with a minor he believed to be a 14-year-old girl located in Lewisburg. Despite knowing her age, Laxton discussed meeting the minor to engage in sexual intercourse. On Nov. 1, 2019, Laxton drove through Virginia to meet the purported minor at an arranged meeting location in Lewisburg in order to engage in sexual intercourse.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s West Virginia Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, in partnership with the West Virginia State Police, conducted the investigation. United States District Judge Frank W. Volk imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Rada Herrald handled the prosecution.

The case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative of the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.justice.gov/psc.

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