REMARKS BY JAY B. STEPHENS
NATIONAL MISSING CHILDREN’S DAY
THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2002
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, GREAT HALL, 2:00 P.M.
Good afternoon. In 1982, President Reagan proclaimed May 25th as National Missing Childrens Day. Since that first observance 20 years ago, family members, friends, public agencies, and private organizations all across our nation have worked together to provide their time, talent and technology in locating and recovering missing children. Our first line of defense when a child is missing, however, is law enforcement. In recognition of that, we are here today to honor law enforcement officers who have made extraordinary contributions to the recovery and protection of missing and exploited children.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to recognize this years winners of the National Missing and Exploited Childrens Awards for Excellence in Law Enforcement. In making these awards, we also pay tribute to all those in the law enforcement community who every day devote their time and talent to keeping us and our children safe.
I am especially honored to have the opportunity to participate in todays 20th anniversary observance. I remember very vividly meeting with John Walsh in late 1981 or early 1982 when I was Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division here at the Department. At that time, Mr. Walsh came to the Department and made an impassioned plea to get a then-reluctant federal law enforcement establishment involved in helping to investigate missing children. In the aftermath of that meeting, we worked with Mr. Walsh and with Senator Hawkins and others to engage federal law enforcement in assisting state and local law enforcement in this critical endeavor. Since that time through the leadership of John Walsh, Senator Paula Hawkins, Ernie Allen, Robbie Callaway and countless others, the national effort to recover missing and exploited children has become a model program that has dramatically impacted the lives and families of thousands of Americans. We are pleased that law enforcement has become a critical partner in the success of this endeavor.
Today we extend our congratulations to the men and women in law enforcement who are being recognized for their outstanding work with respect to missing and exploited children. Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the 2002 Law Enforcement Award winners.
1.) The Case: The Search and Recovery of Lindsay Shamrock
The first group of recipients of this years Law Enforcement Awards demonstrated successful international coordination and secured the recovery of a girl who had been lured overseas. The winners are: U.S. Postal Inspector April Hindin of Tampa, Florida; and Detective Sergeant Gary Klinger and Detective Charlie Gates of the Polk County Sheriffs Office in Bartow, Florida.
On August 28, 2000, Lindsay Shamrocks parents reported their daughter missing to the Polk County Sheriffs Department in Mulberry, Florida. Based on a preliminary investigation and thorough computer examination by Detective Sergeant Gary Klinger and Detective Charlie Gates, it was determined that Lindsay had been communicating with a 35-year-old male via the Internet and U.S. Mail for several months. Detective Sgt. Klinger and Detective Gates requested the assistance of Postal Inspector April Hindin to join the unfolding investigation.
Inspector Hindin obtained Federal search warrants for the E-mail correspondence and uncovered a man by the name of Franz Konstantin Baehring, who had enticed Shamrock to travel to Greece to meet him. Detective Sgt. Klinger, Detective Gates and Inspector Hindin located Shamrock in Greece, where she was immediately taken into protective custody. On the same day, Baehring was arrested. Baehring remains behind bars in Greece and is currently awaiting trial.
2.) The Case: The Search and Recovery of Alexandria Gallagher
The next recipients of the 2002 Law Enforcement Awards reunited a mother with her daughter after five years of searching. These winners are: Detective Scott Botkin, of the Bethany Police Department in Bethany, Oklahoma, and Officer Sean OConnor, of the Brackenridge Police Department in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.
In June of 1996, Jean Gallagher dropped off her five-year-old daughter, Alexandria, at the home of Alexandrias paternal grandmother while she went to work. The grandmother called Jean a few hours later and informed her that she would not be returning Alexandria. Jean obtained the necessary legal documentation and began a lengthy search for her daughter.
After several years, Jean learned that her original incident report was closed in 1997 for unexplained reasons. Armed with this information, she contacted the Bethany Police Department, and Detective Scott Botkin was assigned to the case. Det. Botkin entered Alexandrias information into the National Crime Information Center and began the search. In August 2001, a lead came into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Childrens hotline. The caller saw a Wal-Mart poster of Alexandria and provided a current address for the abductor in Pennsylvania. Detective Botkin was contacted and put in touch with Officer Sean OConnor at the Brackenridge, Pennsylvania Police Department. Officer OConnor verified that Alexandria was registered there for the upcoming school year.
Officer OConnor then learned that the abductor was leaving Pennsylvania for Colorado to meet the childs father. Through coordination based on this lead, Colorado Missing Childrens Clearinghouse personnel were then able to locate Alexandria, who was reunited with her mother after an exhaustive 5 year search. The abductor was arrested with her boyfriend and charged with child abduction in Oklahoma. A sentencing hearing will be set in the next few months.
3.) The Case: The Dissolution of Landslide Productions, Inc.
The third team of award recipients brought down a large criminal enterprise. These winners are: The United States Postal Inspection Service Headquarters and its Fort Worth, Texas Office, as well as the Dallas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Dallas, Texas.
In 1999, United States Postal Inspectors discovered that a company called Landslide Productions, Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, operated and owned by Thomas and Janice Reedy, offered Web sites hosting child pornography. Fort Worth Postal Inspector Robert C. Adams and Dallas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Detective Steven A. Nelson teamed up to begin what would result in a child exploitation case of unprecedented magnitude.
In terms of commercial gain, this was the biggest childrens exploitation enterprise ever uncovered. In one month alone, the company took in more than $1.4 million in revenue. The Reedys were indicted in Federal district court on 89 counts of conspiracy to distribute child pornography and possession of child pornography. The Reedys were convicted on all counts as charged. Thomas Reedy was sentenced to an unprecedented sentence of life in prison and his wife, Janice, was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
Using intelligence gained from the companys customer database, the Postal Inspection Service joined forces with 30 federally funded Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces located across the country to form an undercover operation named "Operation Avalanche."
In August of 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth Weaver announced the successful conclusion of the two-year investigation that dismantled the largest-known commercial childrens pornography enterprise. Operation Avalanche resulted in the execution of more than 155 state and Federal search warrants across the country; arrests of more than 110 offenders to date for trafficking in child pornography through the mail and via the Internet; the identification, arrest, and prosecution of numerous child molesters; and the rescue of untold numbers of child victims.
4.) The Case: The Search and Capture of Mark Anthony Baca
The next Law Enforcement Award winner demonstrated that one person can make a difference. He is Detective Rodney Mosher, Salt Lake City Police Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.
On November 5, 2001, an eight-year-old boys parents took him to be evaluated at the Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, after he repeatedly acted out at school. During the evaluation, the child disclosed sexual abuse.
The Medical Center contacted the Salt Lake City Police Department, which assigned Detective Rodney Mosher to the case. Det. Mosher interviewed the young boy, who told him about a night in February of 2001 when the child had visited the residence of Mark Anthony Baca [Bah-kah] with two other boys.
Based on information obtained in the interview, Detective Mosher prepared a search warrant for Baca's residence. In the search, Detective Mosher seized 75 videotapes, 24 photographs, and various sexual devices. Mosher then interviewed Baca and obtained a confession. Baca confessed that there was a video of him engaged in sexual activity with minor boys among the 75 videotapes seized. He declined to name his victims. However, due to the cases media attention and extensive interviews with the known victims, Detective Mosher gained additional leads to identify other victims.
Det. Mosher contacted members of the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task who arrested Baca for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. A second warrant for the search of Bacas residence was executed, and additional evidence was seized. Baca was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on the charge of Manufacturing Child Pornography, to which he pled guilty. The conviction carries a 10-year minimum mandatory prison sentence. State charges, including seven first-degree felonies, will be filed after sentencing in the Federal case.
5.) The Case: The Search and Capture of Merle Holdren
The next group of Law Enforcement Award winners brought about the capture of a dangerous predator and child pornographer. They are: Special Agent Bruce Bennett, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Seattle, Washington; Detective Shannon Anderson, Seattle Police Department, Seattle, Washington; and Detective Jeff Vortisch, Beaufort Police Department, Beaufort, South Carolina.
While working undercover online, Detective Jeff Vortisch was contacted by an individual nicknamed Tbear, who was later identified as 40-year-old Merle Holdren of Seattle, Washington. Holdren divulged that he was operating an underage escort service that included 8- to 14-year-old girls. Holdren revealed his plans to expand his operation into a marketable child pornography video business and asked Detective Vortisch to be his distributor.
Detective Vortisch contacted staff at Innocent Images in Baltimore, Maryland, which coordinated the efforts of Detective Vortisch and Special Agent Bruce Bennett in Seattle. Because of the risk that children were in immediate danger, Special Agent Bennett also contacted the Puget Sound area Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and requested the assistance of Seattle Police Detective Shannon Anderson.
The Puget Sound Violent Crimes Task Force and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a search warrant for Holdrens home. During the search, methamphetamines, a computer, and volumes of child pornography were found. Cameras were also found with undeveloped photos of Holdren molesting a small child in his house.
Armed with the new information, Detective Anderson obtained a second search warrant and found a shirt similar to the one worn by the child in the photographs. After a six-hour interview, Holdrens girlfriend signed a confession that gave an account of months of sexual abuse of her daughter. Through persistent investigation and numerous hours of searching, Detective Anderson also identified a 15-year-old girl that Holdren had described online as his girlfriend.
Detective Anderson filed an 18-count indictment with the King County Superior Court charging Holdren with crimes ranging from rape of a child and sexual exploitation of a minor to the use of a controlled substance for the rape of a child. Holdren was given a 35-year sentence.
Congratulations to the officers who contributed to the capture of this dangerous criminal.
6.) The Case: The Search and Recovery of Anne Sluti
I am pleased to present to our final group of award winners the 2002 Law Enforcement Officers of the Year Award. This team demonstrated multi-jurisdictional teamwork at its best. The Officers of the Year are: Undersheriff Michael E. Sargeant and Sheriff William Barron of the Lake County Sheriffs Office in Polson, Montana; Special Agent Douglas Schreurs [Sh-urs], of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Grand Island, Nebraska; and Investigator Tony Cordova of the Kearney Police Department, Kearney, Nebraska.
On Friday, April 4, 2001, 17-year-old Anne Sluti left a local shopping mall in Kearney, Nebraska. As she walked through the parking lot to her car, a vehicle suddenly appeared, and a man emerged from the vehicle. He punched Anne and threw her into his vehicle and drove away. A witness quickly called 911 to alert police. A widespread national search was initiated by the FBI and the Kearney Police Department. Law enforcement officers actively searched for Anne by air and on the ground. Posters of Anne and a composite drawing of the abductor were distributed.
Just seven days after Anne disappeared, a call came into the Lake County Sheriffs Office in Montana about a possible "breaking and entering" of a cabin near the callers house. Undersheriff Sargeant responded to the call. Aware of Annes recent abduction, Sargeant quickly examined the area, discovered the abductors vehicle, and waited for back up.
After eight hours of careful negotiations by Undersheriff Sargeant and skillful investigative work by Special Agent Schreurs, Officer Cordova, and Sheriff Barron, the abductor finally emerged from the cabin and surrendered to police. Anne Sluti was not far behind and appeared in good condition. Later that evening Anne was ecstatically reunited with her family.
Congratulations to this years Officers of the Year and to all award winners honored here today.
As we reflect on the 20th anniversary of Missing Childrens Day, let us remember the children and their families whom we work to protect; let us remember the valiant efforts of the dedicated professional men and women we have honored today, and all those in law enforcement who steadfastly work to bring these cases to successful conclusions; and let us, above all, remember that our work is not over until all children are reunited with their families and every child is safe.