CLACKAMAS, Ore. – You see the stories on the news about predators on the Internet luring kids and teens away, but how do they do it? We spoke to a young woman from Clackamas to reveal the strategies that predators use so you can protect your family.
Shelby Eichner was 17 years old, a hard worker in school and sports and close to her family and friends. She went on a dating site, as some of her friends had, and met a young man, who claimed to be 22, named Anthony Pranzetti.
"He comes from a good home," she said. "A good family in Lake Oswego."
But she said that Pranzetti, who was actually 29, used psychological strategies to gain total control over her. These are methods that she believes could work on any teen, even those from happy homes like hers.
Initially, it started with seemingly innocent online interactions. Pranzetti seemed to have a lot in common with Eichner, agreeing that he also valued family, sports, travel and education. All this, she said, was really part of his strategy.
“What are you looking for? What do you want in a guy? What's your type of guy? And then they just become that,” Eichner said. “But they don't do it like, ‘this guy's totally lying.’ They do it in a way that (you feel), ‘I am so lucky right now to have found this great person.’”
After several weeks of talking online and over the phone, their first meeting was supposed to be a date at the movies. Eichner said that she waited for an hour, while Pranzetti texted excuses for why he was running so late. It was only when she was getting ready to leave that he texted and said he was pulling into the parking lot.
“I wasn’t thinking how weird it was that the second I pulled out of the parking spot that he magically showed up,” Eichner said. “He was watching the entire time, seeing how far he could push me, which is something that predators do.”
She stayed to watch the movie with him, one step closer to being under his control. In that way, she said he primed her to value and listen to him, no matter what.
"What you need is what they become. It wasn't like I had a bad home life and needed a father figure or a place to stay or anything like that,” Eichner said. “What I needed was a companion, and he became that."
Pranzetti was Eichner’s first real relationship, and she quickly fell for him. She thought he was very loving and caring. He also wanted to know everything about her so they could be soul mates.
"He'd be like, ‘I love you so much. In order for us to be one person, to be a really good cohesive pair, we need to know everything about each other,” she said.
But Eichner believed that was also a strategy, so Pranzetti could study her fears and loves to later use against her or take away entirely.
For example, he would beg her to spend time with him instead of with family or friends. This isolated her from her loved ones and taught her that she could never say “no” to him.
“He was studying me and studying my family. They do that really well,” she said. "In the beginning, he would see just how far he could push me until I would snap. Every time, he was able to push me just a little bit further."
One evening, Pranzetti asked her to watch a movie with him, even though she had to study for a final exam. Despite being tired, Eichner acquiesced. Pranzetti then plied her with a pill, claiming that it was like a caffeine pill to keep her awake. It turned out to be meth, according to Eichner.
“That was somebody I trusted,” she said. “If I was to go to a house party then I would think that somebody might drug me there, but never would I think that my boyfriend would do that.”
It turned out that Pranzetti was a pimp with an extensive record. After getting Eichner addicted to meth, he kidnapped and used physical violence against her then forced her to have sex with people for money.
Eichner’s ordeal lasted for five months, until Pranzetti was arrested after he had passed out in his car from drugs. Eichner then found out that he was a convicted sex offender who had forced other, younger teens in Oregon and Washington into prostitution.
Now, more than two years later, Eichner is still trying to recover. She was the young victim of a skilled predator with a record of taking over the lives of teens, but it can be hard not to feel somehow at fault. There was physical violence but also emotional destruction.
“Basically, I would say that he ruined everything, everything inside,” Eichner said. “I used to be very outgoing and bubbly, and I'm not. I don't think that life will ever be the same, even though you work toward it.”
Through the violence, the drugs and the brainwashing, Eichner has survived. She said many victims do not.
“There were times that I didn't think I would. And I would rather not have,” she said. “But, now, I'm very happy to just be alive."
Pranzetti is currently at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore. for his crimes. Eichner is studying psychology in college. She is sharing her story to help families and save another child from being lured on line.
Concerned about your children? Below are resources to keep your kids from falling victim to predators like Pranzetti.