Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pedophile on the hunt at your local Walmart

A 3-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in a Wal-Mart, and now police are asking for help in catching the suspect. The disturbing case of child sex abuse occurred two weeks ago in Orem.

The abuse happened May 14 while the girl was sitting in a shopping cart. But the suspect's actions were caught on surveillance tape, and now police are turning to the public for help in finding this child predator.

The video shows the suspect in the store for about an hour, and police say it appears he had only one reason for being there: to molest a child.

"He arrives at the store, walks in, and for roughly an hour he walks around Wal-Mart kind of passively looking at things. But for the most part, you see him shadowing small children," said Sgt. John McCombs, with the Orem Police Department.

The video even shows the man approach a young child sitting in the shopping cart. Just at the moment it appears he is ready to make his move, the child's mother turns around. The man keeps walking and starts to clap his hands together at this missed opportunity.

Sadly, the man later victimizes a 3-year-old girl. Police say a woman had her daughter sitting in a grocery cart when she went around the corner for just a few moments to grab an item. "And when she came back, her daughter had said, ‘That that man just touched me,' and pointed to herself where she had been touched," explained Lt. Doug Edwards, spokesman for Orem police.

"For an hour, he appears to be searching for a victim until he finally finds the one that he touches," McCombs said.

That's when the man immediately leaves Wal-Mart without buying anything. Security cameras also catch him leaving in this Chevy or GMC four-door pickup truck at the same time the victim's mother is reporting the crime to store security.

We showed the footage to Doctor Ted Harris, who treats sexually abused victims and predators. He says it's obvious the man is dangerous, more so than the average predator. "This guy appears to be pretty brazen. To go in public, risk being caught, there's got to be something going on with him that's pushed him over the edge," Dr. Harris said.

But it's also that risk of being caught that may lead to more attempts. Dr. Harris said, "He's walking around in public, seeking kids that he knows the parents are there, and so that increases his arousal, probably."

Close-calls may only keep him going. "The one kid where he starts clapping his hands, it's like, probably a sense of relief, but also a sense of excitement that, ‘yeah, I was that close, and I could've had that one,'" Dr. Harris said.

Police searched surveillance video and believe no other children were victimized while the suspect was in the store.

Detectives have exhausted possible leads in finding the man and now need the public's help. "We've tried narrowing it down on sex offender registries, we've tried searching vehicles that match descriptions that we are looking at, put it out to other detectives, and we just can't figure out who this guy is," McCombs said.

The suspect will face charges of child sex abuse if he is arrested.

Again, police have no solid leads in this case, so anyone with information on who this predator could be should contact the detectives at the Orem Police Department by calling (801) 229-7149.

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