Beer can, Disney glasses help bust Maryland child abusers
A 5-year-old's distinctive pink Disney eyeglasses helped investigators rescue her from a pair of sexual abusers from Bowie and Annapolis.
The pair repeatedly had exploited her and her 3-year-old sister and distributed pornographic photos and video of the crimes over the Internet.
Help from a Maryland eye doctor also provided a crucial link for the officers and agents from Canada and the United States who pursued the girls' case for more than a year.
"Law and Order SVU" is the bows-and-ribbons television version of this type of case: Every clue proves fruitful, and all leads are neatly tied up. The girls’ saga demonstrates why real-world sleuthing is more complicated.
The story emerged in the wake of the May sentencing of Timothy Malcolm Beers, 47, of Bowie. and the October sentencing of his conspirator, Joseph Vieson III, 43, of Annapolis. Vieson and Beers received 45 and 36 year sentences, respectively, in federal court in Baltimore; their changes included sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography and conspiracy to produce child pornography.
Months after the men pleaded guilty, the work of the teams that caught them has come to be featured in national seminars on combating child exploitation.
"This is the outcome you always hope for," said Special Agent Rachel Corn, a member of the FBI’s Baltimore office cyber squad, in a written statement. "Rescue the victims and put the abusers away."
The hunt began in May 2007 when images of an adult man sexually abusing a young child appeared online and were noticed by investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The photos and video could have been shot anywhere at any time.
The Mounties compiled the images and passed them along for review to other law enforcement units tracking child predators. A month later, a Toronto Police detective studying the background of one photo noticed a blurry image. Was it a cup? A can? He bore in, enhancing the image until he could make out a can of beer.
A detective in Belfast, Maine, was also studying the images. The little girl’s eyes, he saw, were two different colors behind her pink glasses. A doctor might recall her if those glasses could be traced.
The frames were identified by manufacturer and model number. They were not widely sold. In August 2008, an FBI agent in New York opened a case and began contacting ophthamologists in the states in which the beer was distributed.
Within three weeks, a Maryland doctor called the agent in New York.
The girl was his patient. And she had been in his office that morning on her first day of first grade to get a replacement for her pair of broken glasses.
The New York office called the FBI cyber squad in Baltimore who arranged surveillance on the girl’s house. Wthin hours on Aug. 25, 2008, as she returned from school, investigators identified the girl as the child in the Internet postings. By that night, agents had searched the house with special evidence teams and child interviewers had spoken to the girl.
She identified her two abusers. Forensic evidence later revealed that her younger sister had also been abused.
Vieson pleaded guilty to a 12-count indictment and, according to federal prison records, is in Arizona with a projected release date of 2047. Beers reached a plea agreement that included paying his victims $75,000. Federal records show him imprisoned in Virginia with a projected release of 2040.
-- Mary Pat Flaherty
Mary Pat Flaherty
January 15, 2010; 5:36 AM ET
Categories: Anne Arundel , Baltimore , Mary Pat Flaherty
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