Atlanta/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 26, 2024
Life in Lockup as Flowery Branch Fiend Confesses to Grisly Snapchat SetupSource: Unsplash/ Matthew Ansley

A Flowery Branch man was sentenced to life for a heinous crime involving the rape and brutal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl, Gwinnett County officials reported on Friday. Zachary Iona, 22, accepted a plea deal, admitting to a series of charges including rape, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.

Iona's negotiated sentence will keep him behind bars for 30 years, followed by a five-year term of parole, stated Marcus Garner, a spokesperson for the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office. The attack, which occurred in February 2022 after the teen invited Iona to a house in Hoschton via Snapchat, involved Iona binding the girl's hands and covering her mouth with tape before the sexual assault and stabbing her in multiple areas of her body, Garner detailed.

The young victim was able to reach her phone despite her injuries and managed to call for help. Rushed to a hospital, she had to endure multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy after sustaining at least 86 stab and cut wounds. Police subsequently linked Iona to the crime through a Snapchat photo on the victim's phone, as mentioned in an Atlanta News First report, where they also found incriminating evidence like duct tape, and rope, as well as blood in his car.

"This should be a warning to our young people to beware," stated Patsy Austin-Gatson, Gwinnett County District Attorney, "As this case demonstrates, not everyone you meet on social media has your best interest at heart." The tenacity and will of the victim were highlighted during the plea hearing, where she expressed her gratitude for surviving and her recent accomplishment of graduating high school, according to Atlanta News First.

Officials underline the disturbing trend in which predators connect with minors on social platforms and travel directly to them, as pointed out by Staca Shehan, a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in FOX 5 Atlanta. The Gwinnett District Attorney's Office Special Victims Unit prosecuted Iona, who will now be subject to mandatory sex offender registration following his release from prison.