Sex offenders are hiding in plain sight
When John Leroy Brown stepped off a plane at Vancouver International Airport on July 30, he kept his trophies within arm’s reach.
He made no effort to conceal them, casually placing the treasured pieces in his luggage, not fazed in the slightest that the DVDs—and the sickening images on them—might land him in jail.
Perhaps the tall and lanky 36-year-old from Drummond, Montana was preoccupied with his final destination: the city of Chennai, in the province of Tamil Nadu in India.
It was there where a friend owned and operated a children’s orphanage, one of many in the city of five million, and where Brown planned to work as a bookkeeper.
Or perhaps Brown felt the way Richmond provincial court Judge Ron Fratkin later described him: “Foolhardy is just a gross understatement. Risk-taking. Or perhaps it was just brazen, perhaps it was just a bravado, or perhaps it was, ‘I don’t care, I’ll do what I want to do.’”
As he marched toward the gate to catch the plane bound for Hong Kong and eventually India, Brown likely gave little thought to Vancouver, which was scheduled to be little else than a minutes-long stopover.
To Brown’s surprise, it was one that would prove to last six months.
What John Leroy Brown ultimately intended to do while working at the children’s orphanage in India, only he knows for certain.
But his history, and the contents of those DVDs, certainly suggest something sinister was in the cards.
Born on Oct. 2, 1976, Brown was 21 when he was convicted of the aggravated sexual battery of his 13-year-old girlfriend in Hardin, Tennessee.
Details about the circumstances of the attack were not available, but the girl’s age suggests he had a fondness for children. The fact she might have been pre-pubescent—giving her the appearance of a boy—may also be telling.
The fact he was sentenced to eight years in prison suggests that this was more than a young man having consensual sex with an underage girlfriend, only to be tossed in the clink by the harsh American justice system.
Thanks to the readily available information about sex offenders, Brown’s history is just an Internet connection away.
Standing six feet four inches tall, and weighing 180 pounds, the blue-eyed and strawberry-red haired Brown was also convicted in 2008 of failing to notify the sheriff’s office of his arrival in Marion, Florida, a requirement of sex offenders whenever they change addresses.
He was last living anonymously in the tiny town of Drummond, Montana, in a modest condo just a couple of short blocks away from Drummond School, and all the children from the town’s population of 300 people.
An employee at Country Bumpkins Cafe, just a stone’s throw from Brown’s apartment, was shocked to learn a sex offender was living so nearby.
“I’ve got grandkids who live here. It would be nice if they posted a notice on his front lawn,” she said.
Hiding in plain sight
When John Leroy Brown was pulled aside by Canada Customs officers and subjected to a primary and secondary search, he was truthful and co-operative about the contents of the DVDs.
According to a court transcript obtained by The Richmond Review, Brown was “asked if there was any child pornography...and the accused said ‘Yes’.
Brown admitted he was planning to stay in India for four to six months, and brought with him a laptop computer and a desktop computer.
But precisely what he told border services officers and RCMP investigators was not revealed in Richmond provincial court, where Brown entered a guilty plea, and received a six-month prison sentence.
“The accused was asked various other questions in the investigation with regard to how, why, when, although I have not been made privy to the answers...,” Judge Ron Fratkin wrote.
Thanks to solid inter-agency cooperation between Canada and the United States, Canadian authorities apparently knew about Brown’s criminal history when he was questioned at Vancouver International Airport.
And that’s what led to the discovery of his cherished DVDs, which contained still images and videos of children as young as five having sexual relations with adults and other children.
While keeping trophies is common among child sex predators, most are unlike Brown, and keep their dark desires a tightly guarded secret, according to Staff Sgt. Bev Csikos, who heads up the RCMP’s behavioural sciences team, including the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit.
And while it would be convenient if sex offenders looked a certain way, Csikos said they come in all ages, shapes and sizes. And most are men.
Sex offenders are otherwise good, upstanding citizens, great family figures, pillars of the community, coaches and ministers, well-liked and well-respected, she said.
“It’s these people who are offending against children,” she said.
Csikos recalls a well-liked Lower Mainland man who was a father of four, and an upstanding citizen, with a great reputation who had been sexually abusing three of his kids, as well as four friends.
“All of his friends refused to believe it,” Csikos said. “This is the biggest, darkest secret.”
Bev Csikos recalls the insightful police interview of a man in his 60s, who confessed that for four decades he had sexual fantasies involving children.
But he never once acted on them, repulsed at the notion of doing so to the children in his family.
Then along came the Internet, and everything changed, she said.
It was like a smorgasbord of delight for the sick and twisted, all accessible from the anonymity and privacy of his home.
What had long been repressed, like a sickly starved weed, was suddenly fueled with every new image of a child being raped and tortured.
He then acted on his impulses, and was caught and convicted.
Csikos said the Internet has enabled like-minded men to connect from all over the world, and share their fantasies about children.
She said one group of men, all from Western Countries, were meeting on a secured website and were feeding off of each other’s fantasies.
When one would express a fantasy, another would act it out, with ever-escalating violence.
“It was very disturbing for us to see.”
Not one of the men had a criminal record, she noted.
In another case, there was a Canadian working at an orphanage in Africa, sexually abusing children.
It’s no surprise that sexual predators will go out of their way to volunteer or obtain a job that surrounds them with children, she said.
Csikos said the image of a sexual predator is simply not what police are actually seeing in the field.
“They are great, upstanding citizens, and pillars of the community. They are normal people, like you and I.”
They are many more people in possession of child porn today than a decade ago.
The RCMP’s online investigators can within 15 minutes of being online, find themselves lured out for a sexual purpose.
But for all the horrors her team of 12 investigators must endure, and all the images they cannot unsee, that all become bearable when a victim of sexual abuse is rescued.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t begin to tell you when you’ve seen these children abused, and you walk into the home, and there they are, and you removed them and that person is never going to abuse them again. You can find no greater satisfaction.”