On an August night in 2003, a young woman who went by the name Paulina sank into the sofa of her modest, rented apartment, opened up her laptop, and began talking about sex with a man she’d recently met in a Yahoo chat group. His name was Stephen Bolen. His first communications had been terse, but he soon warmed to Paulina. It didn’t take long for both of them to begin to open up.

Paulina had told Bolen she lived in the Atlanta area, that she had a three-year-old daughter, that her daughter’s father was no longer in the picture.