Army solider accused of luring child over internet, searching for ‘submissive’ girls

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Pictured: Kenneth Hardcastle. Photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

AURORA | An active-duty U.S. Army soldier from northern Colorado has been arrested on suspicion of luring and exploiting a child over the internet, according to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators with the local sheriff’s office took Kenneth Hardcastle, 30, into custody on Monday and charged him with a pair of felonies: internet luring of a child and sexually exploiting a child over the internet, according to court records. 

Hardcastle, who has used the online pseudonym “Colorado batman,” is accused of soliciting girls as young as 10 years old for sex, according to Arapahoe County authorities.

Detectives with the local sheriff’s office began investigating Hardcastle about two weeks ago, when a 16-year-old Centennial girl told her parents she had been in contact with a man who was asking her to send him naked pictures of herself, according to Deborah Sherman, spokesman for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. 

The girl’s parents then notified authorities.

The Centennial teen later told deputies the man she was in contact with asked her if she had any friends who were approximately 10 years old because “she was too old for him,” according to Sherman.

Investigators believe Hardcastle was actively soliciting nude photos from young girls over Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and several dating sites. Sherman said investigators believe Hardcastle was advertising himself as a man looking for a “submissive.”

“This guy was looking for submissive young people who he could dominate,” she said. 

Officials also believe Hardcastle actively worked to conceal his identity until he confirmed the girls he is accused of contacting were, in fact, female.

Authorities with the Loveland Police Department served a search warrant on Hardcastle’s home in that city yesterday, Sherman said. 

Hardcastle has served in the military since October 2008, according to Agustin Solivan, spokesman for the U.S. Army’s Denver Recruiting Battalion. He worked as an active-duty recruiter at an office in Ft. Collins from November 2015 to August 2018, Solivan said. 

But Hardcastle was suspended from all recruiting activity “for an unrelated administrative matter” last summer. He has worked in an administrative role from his home in Loveland for the past 11 months, Solivan said.

The Colorado State University Police Department charged Hardcastle with patronizing a prostitute in March 2017, according to court records. The case was later dismissed.

Hardcastle will likely remain an active-duty soldier at least until the conclusion of his criminal proceedings, according to Solivan.

Hardcastle is married, but doesn’t have any children, according to Sherman.

Hardcastle was booked into the Arapahoe County Detention Center, but he posted a $10,000 cash or surety bond shortly before 4 p.m. on July 16, according to county officials. He will be ordered to wear monitoring software while out on bond.

Hardcastle made his initial appearance in Arapahoe County District Court this morning. He’s scheduled to appear in court again at 8:30 a.m. on July 19.   

Authorities are concerned Hardcastle may have exploited additional victims, and are encouraging people who believe they may have been contacted by Hardcastle to call Arapahoe County investigators at 720-874-8477.