A little girl in North Carolina victimized by child pornographers owes her life to seven Toronto police officers who used the Internet to solve her case.
The officers used clues in photographs posted on an international police website to narrow the 6-year-old’s location to Raleigh and ultimately, through FBI cross-checking, to her school and address, reported the Toronto Globe and Mail.
A federal grand jury this week indicted Brian Tod Schellenberger, 41, of Cary, N.C., on four counts of child exploitation. He allegedly belonged to a small group producing and viewing “hurt-core porn,” which involves children under 13 who are being physically battered.
Schellenberger allegedly had several hundred thousand child porn images on his computer when arrested, according to the Globe.
The Canadian officers, members of the child exploitation branch of the force’s sex crimes unit, zeroed in on a wristband the girl wore in some of the pictures, a badge on her girl scout uniform and a blurred-out logo on a T-shirt, the paper said.
The Globe said the rare success saw grown men and women in Toronto Det. Sgt. Paul Gillespie’s office break down in tears.
U.S. authorities, according to Gillespie, are pursuing reports Schellenberger may have tried to hire someone to kill the little girl and her mother.
The mother apparently was unaware of the abuse.
Of the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 victims of child pornography known worldwide, only fewer than 300 children have been identified, according to Gillespie.
He said when his team received the call informing them the girl had been saved, “It was the best Christmas present ever.”
“I mean, we knew we had the right school, but we really couldn’t believe it. Two or three of my people broke down,” he said.
Gillespie, as he began to choke up, added, “I’ve given a couple of presentations to select groups of officers about this case, and I’ve yet to be able to get through it without breaking down myself.”
The officer said the rescued girl was seen being beaten, urinated and defecated on, sodomized, forced into oral sex, degraded by having such slogans as “Kill me I’m a slut” written on her body and kept in a dog cage.
“It was the dog cage that really got me,” he told the Globe. “She was obviously in pain, those poor brown eyes looking up at you.”
He ordered his squad to devote all its attention to the case and spent the next 36 hours using clues on the images to narrow down the search.
“It was such a motivator,” he said to the paper. “We all thought, maybe we are making a difference: We saved a little girl’s life in North Carolina. Somebody upstairs was directing us. Maybe when she’s the president of the United States, we’ll know why we were able to rescue her.”
Yesterday, ABC News reported federal agents in the largest investigation ever into Internet child pornography discovered a vast underground market that included many people with access to children, such as a campus minister, a seventh-grade teacher, a Boy Scout volunteer, a substitute teacher, a Catholic priest and a Mormon camp counselor.
Agents arrested a Chicago pediatrician who allegedly had 3,000 images of child pornography stored on his computer.