EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE OJJDP
UNTIL THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2002 AT 2:00 P.M. EDT 202/307-0703
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HONORS LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS FOR
TO HELP MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Law enforcement officers involved in six different cases instrumental in the recovery of and assistance to abducted and abused children were honored today at a ceremony held at the Department of Justice. Undersheriff Michael Sargeant and Sheriff William Barron from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Polson, Montana, Special Agent Douglas Schreurs from the FBI Field Office in Grand Island, Nebraska and Investigator Tony Cordova from the Kearney, Nebraska Police Department received the Officer of the Year Award for Missing and Exploited Children Investigations. Their search efforts led to the recovery of Anne Sluti, a 17-year old who was abducted from a shopping mall parking lot in Kearney, Nebraska. Seven days later she was recovered in Montana and reunited with her family through investigative work stemming from a routine “breaking and entering” call.
“Today we remember the valiant efforts of these fine, dedicated professional men and women who steadfastly work to bring these cases to successful conclusions,” said Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens, who presented the awards. “But our work is not over until all children are reunited with their families and every child is safe.”
The Officer of the Year award presentation was part of a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of National Missing Children’s Day, which also honored two children with a Courage Award, recognized ChoicePoint, Inc. with a Corporate Leadership Award and honored Stephen Cullen as Volunteer of the Year. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) selected the 2002 honorees from 46 nominations. A list of the law enforcement honorees and information about their cases is attached.
OJJDP Administrator J. Robert Flores presented Kelsey Sauerer, a middle school student from Sartell, Minnesota, the First Place Award in the 3rd Annual Missing Children’s Day Art Contest. Her work, which was selected from nearly 200 submissions nationwide, was displayed
at the ceremony and will be featured in missing children-related publications and conferences.
Performing at the ceremony for the eighth year was The Bells of Love, a children’s musical group from Syracuse, New York. The group was originally formed in response to the 1993 abduction and murder of Sara Wood, a 12-year-old girl from upstate New York.
“We must send a clear message that the exploitation, abuse, or abduction of a child will not be tolerated,” said J. Robert Flores. “We must use every legal tool at our disposal to punish and deter these crimes, and we must never tire of this fight.”
Today’s ceremony also highlighted a new OJJDP publication: A Family Resource Guide on International Parental Kidnapping. This publication raises public awareness and enhances the efforts of law enforcement, families, and community members engaged in the protection of children.
OJJDP has numerous publications concerning missing and exploited children, including an English and Spanish version of When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, available through the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Website at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ and from OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736.
Information about other OJP bureaus and program offices is also available through the OJP Website. Media should contact OJP’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
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After hours, contact: Mary Louise Embrey, 888-763-8947 (pager)
2002 OFFICER OF THE YEAR FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN
Undersheriff Michael Sargeant
Lake County Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff William Barron
Lake County Sheriff’s Office
Special Agent Douglas Schreurs
FBI Field Office
Grand Island, Nebraska
Investigator Tony Cordova
Kearney Police Department
These law enforcement officers participated in the safe return of a 17 year-old abducted in April 2001 from a shopping mall parking lot in Kearney, Nebraska. An eyewitness alerted the police immediately and a widespread national search was initiated by the FBI and the Kearney Police Department. Just seven days after her disappearance, a call came into the Lake County Sheriff’s office in Montana about a possible “breaking and entering” of a cabin near the caller’s house. Undersheriff Sargeant responded to the call with the awareness of the recent abduction. 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. The teenager was not far behind and appeared in good condition. That same evening she was reunited with her family in Nebraska.
Inspector April Hindin
U.S. Postal Inspector
Detective Sergeant Gary Klinger
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Charlie Gates, Jr.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Detective Sgt. Klinger and Detective Gates requested the assistance of Postal Inspector April Hindin in a 2000 missing teenager case. The parents reported their daughter missing to the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in Mulberry, Florida. The Detectives conducted a thorough computer examination in the course of their investigation, and determined that the teenager had been communicating with a 35 year-old male via the Internet and U.S. Mail for several months. When Inspector Hindin joined the investigation, she obtained federal search warrants for the E-mail and uncovered the name of the man who had enticed the teenager to travel to Greece to meet him. The Detectives located them in Greece and were able to take the teenager into protective custody and arrest the perpetrator. He remains behind bars in Greece and is currently awaiting trial.
Detective Scott Botkin
Bethany Police Department
Officer Sean O’Connor
Brackenridge Police Department
Detective Botkin and Officer O’Connor were successful in reuniting a mother with her daughter after five years of searching. In June of 1996, the mother dropped her five year-old daughter off at the home of her paternal grandmother while she went to work. The grandmother notified her the child’s mother later that day that she would not be returning the child. The mother obtained the necessary legal documentation and began a lengthy search for her daughter. After several years, she learned her original incident report was closed in 1997 for unexplained reasons. She then contacted the Bethany Police Department and Detective Botkin was assigned to the case. Detective Botkin entered the child into the National Crime Information Center and in August 2001, a lead came into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline. The caller recognized the child on a Wal-Mart poster and provided a current address for the abductor. Detective Botkin made contact with Officer O’Connor who verified the location of the child and learned that the abductor was planning to travel to Colorado to meet the child’s father. The abductor was arrested with her boyfriend and charged with child abduction in Oklahoma.
United States Postal Service
Headquarters and Ft. Worth Texas Office
Ft. Worth, Texas
Dallas Internet Crimes Against
Children Task Force
In 1999, United States Postal Inspectors discovered Landslide Productions, Inc., a Forth Worth company operated and owned by Thomas and Janice Reedy. The company offered Websites hosting child pornography. Forth Worth Postal Inspector Robert Adams and Dallas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Detective Steven Nelson teamed up to begin what would result in a child exploitation case of unprecedented magnitude. In terms of commercial gain, the task force of 45 officers and agents were able to uncover the largest children’s exploitation case ever. In one month alone, the company was taking in more than $1.4 million in revenue. The Reedys were convicted on 89 counts of conspiracy to distribute child pornography and possession of child pornography. Thomas Reedy was sentenced to an unprecedented sentence of life in prison and Janice was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. In August 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft and Chief Postal Inspector Weaver announced the successful conclusion of Operation Avalanche, a two-year investigation that dismantled the largest known commercial children’s pornography enterprise. The operation resulted in more than 110 offenders arrested 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 number of child victims.
Detective Rodney Mosher
Salt Lake City Police Department
Salt Lake City, Utah
Detective Mosher listened to the story of a distressed eight year-old boy, which involved sexual abuse by an adult male, Mark Anthony Baca, and worked tirelessly to obtain the necessary evidence for a successful conviction. Through two different searches, Detective Mosher was able to seize 75 videotapes, 24 photographs, and various sexual devices and other evidence. He was also able to identify other victims. He then contacted members of the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force who arrested Baca for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. Baca was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on the charge of Manufacturing Child Pornography to which he pled guilty. After sentencing in the federal case, he will be facing state charges, including seven first-degree felonies.
Special Agent Bruce Bennett
FBI Field Office
Detective Shanon Anderson
Seattle Police Department
Detective Jeff Vortisch
Beaufort Police Department
Beaufort, South Carolina
While working online undercover, Detective Vortisch determined that the communications he had from “Tbear” were those of a 40 year-old Merle Holdren of Seattle, Washington. Holdren divulged that he was operating an underage escort service that included 8-14 year-old girls, and that he planned to expand his operation into a marketable child pornography video business. He wanted the undercover detective to be his distributor. Detective Vortisch contacted Innocent Images in Baltimore, Maryland, who coordinated the efforts of Detective Vortisch and Special Agent Bennett. With the risk of children being in immediate danger, Special Agent Bennett contacted the Puget Sound Area Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and requested the assistance of Seattle Police Detective Shanon Anderson. The Task Force executed search warrants for Holdren’s home, resulting in the seizure of methamphetamines, a computer, volumes of child pornography, cameras with undeveloped photos of Holdren molesting a small child in his house, and a shirt similar to the one worn by the child in the photographs. Detective Anderson obtained a signed confession from Holdren’s girlfriend accounting months of sexual abuse of her daughter. Through persistent investigation and numerous hours of searching, Detective Anderson also identified the 15 year-old girl that Holdren described online as his girlfriend. Detective Anderson filed an 18-count indictment, 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.