For the first time, Darlene comes face-to-face with Robert Hamer, the FBI special agent responsible for her ex-husband's arrest.
"Robert, [you are] one of my heroes," Darlene says. "As secondary victims, if you will, of this crime, I truly believe that [Todd's crimes] would have continued. This would have perpetuated, and you saved my children's life and you saved my life. All the hurt that we have gone through is worth it for the lives that we are saving. So, thank you."
Catching child predators like Todd hasn't been easy, Robert says. For three years, Robert posed as a "man-boy lover" and member of NAMBLA. "I have targeted some pretty tough organizations—the Mafia, the Mexican Mafia," he says. "This was clearly the most difficult assignment that I ever undertook."
It cost Robert just $35 to become a NAMBLA member, but it took time and patience to gain the trust of their most influential leaders.
During his investigation, Robert says he accompanied men to a famous toy store. Soon after arriving, he says they ran to the railing to watch children ride a 60-foot Ferris wheel. "[They] stood there and watched the boys going around in the Ferris wheel, commenting on specific boys and the actual sexual acts they'd like to do with the boys," he says.
After spending three years as a NAMBLA member, Robert made his move. The FBI set up a fake boat trip to Mexico and promised participants that they would be able to engage in sexual acts with young boys. Eager to participate, men began signing up for the trip.
The FBI arrested eight men—including Todd Calvin. All eight were convicted, but sentences ranged from two years to 30 years.
The most dangerous tool any child predator has is the Internet. New York Times
investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald
, spent four months studying how predators share their dangerous secrets online.
"The Internet breathed new life into this community," Kurt says. "And the Internet became the new lifeblood for them and has truly given it knowledge, power and ability it did not have before."
Although Kurt says he doesn’t believe this online community can be conquered, he is optimistic that they can be fought through diligence and education.
"The way they are successful is through our ignorance," Kurt says. "The way they are able to get away with the things they are able to get away with is because what they are talking about is so disturbing to so many people that they don’t want to face it. But when we don’t face it, we are actually putting our kids at risk."
So what do predators discuss online? In short, everything, says Kurt. From the TV shows that have the most attractive children to pointers on how to lure a child into sexual acts, not much is off-limits.
According to Kurt, many online predators believe children have a desire to have sex with adults and that other adults—like parents—force them to "deny their desires."
A lot of what passes for advocacy, Kurt says, is simply a smoke screen in these communities. The crime takes place when fantasies translate into real, daily life, he says.
During his investigation, Kurt found predators may have acted upon fantasies in one place where children should feel safe—the classroom. Kurt was shocked to learn through his research that the most common job for pedophiles is teaching. He says one principal said in an online chat that he met his first "YF"—a popular abbreviation for "Young Friend"—when he was sent to his office for discipline.
"They're aware that people can be watching, and even so, they are very open about the nature of what they're doing," Kurt says.
Some child predators share too much—and get caught in very public ways. Dateline NBC correspondent Chris Hansen—along with the help of an online predator vigilante group called Perverted Justice—has helped arrest nearly 150 suspected child predators through televised stings.
Dateline crews set up shop in a neighborhood home, and Perverted Justice decoys posing as teenagers wait for predators to contact them in Internet chat rooms. The suspects arrange a time to meet the decoy at the house. Crews set up hidden cameras and microphones and have police officers stationed outside the house. Once the suspect is inside, Chris and his camera crews confront him.
Among those captured on tape is high school teacher Walter Edward Babst (pictured on left), charged with one count of an attempted lewd act with a minor. "I knew it was a set up," he said when confronted by Chris. He has pleaded not guilty and awaits a court appearance.
Another suspect, Lee Greer (pictured on right), allegedly sent a 13-year-old girl lewd photos and promised to let her see "the real thing" in person. "I told her they were dirty pictures and she wanted to see them so I showed them," he says.
Greer faces three counts of unlawful acts against children. He has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
Another man, David Kaye, allegedly set up a date with someone he thought was 13 years old—after sending graphic pictures and carrying on a lewd conversation online. When he showed up at the Dateline house, Chris learned that Kaye was a rabbi at a Jewish youth educational organization. When asked what he was doing in the home, Kaye responded, "Not something good."
Kaye was convicted of enticement, coercion and traveling with the intent of having sex with a minor in a Maryland federal court. He faces five to 30 years in prison.
Ever wonder why these men actually sit down and talk to Chris? He thinks it's because some have severe addictions and may be relieved when they're caught.
Chris says he's amazed that suspects will sit down and talk to him on camera after they recognize him. "It's gotten to the point where it's almost like, 'You're that guy, this is that show. Oh, you want me to sit over here?'"
Chris says he always wants to know what makes the suspect wake up in the morning and decide to meet a child in a strange house. "I'm just trying to understand what motivates these guys." Before confronting suspects, Chris has already read the entire chat log between that person and a decoy. He says reading the material is a "creepy experience."
Many of the men claim this is the first time they've ever done anything like this, but Chris isn't so sure. "I think some of the guys, yes. It's their first time. I think some of the younger guys who are opportunists, who are looking for a quick score with a young girl or boy, possibly. But many more have been down this path before," Chris says.
Think it's bad enough to get caught once in a Dateline sting? Try twice in 24 hours.
John Kennelly allegedly went to a suburban house to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old boy. The decoy asked him to bring a 12-pack of beer and to come in through the side garage naked—which he did. Decoys often ask suspects to bring alcohol or other items to help authorities establish intent so they can be convicted.
Chris handed Kennelly a towel as he and his cameras caught him nude in the kitchen. Kennelly first tells Chris he's a 29-year-old bus driver, then says he's a teacher. In reality, Kennelly is 44 and unemployed. He says on camera that he knows what he did was wrong. When asked what would have happened if Chris had not been there, Kennelly says he "probably would have chickened out."
Just hours later, at 4 a.m., Kennelly allegedly chatted with another Perverted Justice decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy. The chat turned sexual, and he allegedly set up another date—this time at a fast food restaurant.
In disbelief, Chris goes to the restaurant to confront Kennelly (pictured).
Chris: I have been in television for 24 years, and I have very seldom been at a loss for words...
Kennelly: Sir, I just came to get something to eat!
Chris: But I don't even know what to ask you first.
Kennelly: I just came to get something to eat!
Chris: Last night, you walked into a house in suburban Washington naked with a 12-pack of beer, yes or no?
Chris: Today, you're on the Internet again. You have an inappropriate conversation with a boy you think is 13 and you set up a meeting [for] here at this fast food restaurant. What was your intention?
Kennelly: I don't know.
Chris: Then why do you do it?
Kennelly: Because I need help and that's what I'm seeing a psychiatrist for.
Kennelly pleaded guilty for soliciting a minor for sex and received a two-year suspended sentence. He also received three years probation and is not allowed to enter online chat rooms.
Parents aren't helpless in the fight against child predators. There are many ways to protect your children from becoming victims. To keep your family safe, experts say to pay special attention to the following warning signs: Warning Signs:
- Any adult who looks for opportunities to be alone with your child
- Any adult who gives gifts without your permission
- Any adult who uses bad language or tells dirty jokes to your child
- Any adult who allows your children to break your rules
- Any adult who frequently tickles or wrestles with your children
- Watch your children when they play or wrestle with friends. Are their actions appropriate?
Viewers like you have helped track down some of America's most wanted fugitives. Now, five are behind bars, and two more have been sentenced.Ernest Edgar Thomas Jr.
has been convicted of rape and 10 other related counts. He was sentenced to 50–100 years, 50 of which he must serve under Pennsylvania's second strike law.William George Barney
was charged with three counts of lewdness with a minor. He was accused of molesting six children, including one three times a day for six years. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 18 years in jail, but could be released after just six.
With such a big difference in sentencing practices across the country, Oprah says it is time for America to speak up."I think we have done some great work, but I really do believe the laws need to change," Oprah says. "I think there needs to be a national law where the entire nation says, 'This is the way we feel about people who abuse children,' so I'm going to work on [changing that over] the next five years."
"We all need to say once and for all that enough is enough," she says. "I'm going to be calling on those of you who were sexually abused as children, if your own child has ever been molested or if you are just sick and tired of pedophiles being able to roam the streets, I'm going to be calling on you to help me as we do something about this travesty in our country."
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