Crime

Hurst child porn suspect previously investigated

A 28-year-old man accused of luring potential sexual abuse victims by enrolling a 17-year-old accomplice in a Hurst elementary school was investigated by Grapevine police in 2012 after a woman reported that he had picked up her 4-year-old son and asked to baby-sit the boy.

According to a Grapevine police report, the Arlington woman wrote an email to the management of Sea Life Aquarium at Grapevine Mills to complain about Randy Wesson, who was an “education associate.”

The woman said that on Feb. 3, 2012, Wesson picked up her son and later offered to baby-sit.

“I found it alarming and inappropriate when he handed me a card with [his] name and phone number on it,” the woman wrote. “He said, ‘I don’t normally do this, but I do babysitting on the side. I know how hard it is for people to find a babysitter sometimes.’ ”

When the woman asked Wesson what experience he had caring for children, he replied, “I work in Christian youth ministries,” she wrote.

“In my head, all I heard was, ‘I want to molest your son, and groom him with Christianity and aquatic sea life,’ ” the mother wrote.

“I hope you can see how this can be alarming for a parent for a total stranger, at a place you take your children, to offer baby-sitting services. Soliciting those services as a male in this day and age is frankly a bit creepy.”

Aquarium managers immediately suspended Wesson, and the next day, Wesson resigned, the police report said.

Grapevine police were alerted on Feb 7, 2012, by the aquarium’s parent company. Officers investigated but found no evidence of a crime.

“Obviously, we get a lot of reports that turn out to be non-criminal. That’s usually where they die,” said Sgt. Robert Eberling, a Grapevine police spokesman.

However, Detective Rebecca Graves forwarded the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which also looked into Wesson, but “no suspicious activity [was] located to suggest behaviors associated with pedophilia,” according to the police report.

“The investigation revealed no criminal history, minimal online activity related to social sites, and basic biographical data,” Graves noted in the police report on Feb. 14, 2012. “Based upon these findings, this case is closed.”

On Tuesday, Wesson was arrested by Hurst police at his Fort Worth residence after he told officers, who were investigating a tip about Internet child porn, that he had sexually abused more than 100 children ages 7 to 14 and possessed about 42,000 child pornography images, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Also arrested was 17-year-old Ricardo J. Lugo. Investigators said he pretended to be Wesson’s 12-year-old son so he could attend a Hurst elementary school and possibly recruit young victims.

On Friday, officials announced that Wesson will be prosecuted in federal court and that he has been transferred into federal custody. Wesson made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton on Friday morning. Another hearing was set for 11 a.m. Tuesday. The federal complaint accuses him of distribution of child pornography.

Lugo remained in the Hurst Jail with bail set at $250,000. He faces a felony charge of possession of child pornography.

Hurst police were still working Friday to try to identify victims in the case.

A co-worker interviewed by Grapevine police in 2012 said Wesson had previously told her he had worked with church youth ministries but quit attending church after some of the clergy accused him of being “too friendly” toward some of the youth with whom he was working. The co-worker told police, however, that she did not know the name of the church.

Another co-worker told police that Wesson had confided in her six months previously that he had been sexually abused as a child.

Investigation starts

Hurst police began investigating the case in June after an online tip was sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding child pornography linked to the username “littleboy8” and a specific email address. The email address was linked through an Internet search to Wesson.

The email address linked to posts made on a “bedwetting” forum, including one in which a man identifying himself as a “26 years old daddy” stated he is looking for a “baby boy.”

“I want to change you (wet or messy) feed you bathe you and play with you. I am looking for temporary or permanent. I want my baby to be smooth and under 21. My baby will be treated like a real baby,” the post read, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The group forwarded the findings to the Dallas Police Department’s child exploitation unit, which forwarded the case to Hurst police.

The national center’s report also referred to the Grapevine police report involving Wesson.

Hurst police contacted the Grapevine detective who handled the case and obtained a Hurst address for Wesson.

Hurst investigators did not go to the Hurst address until November. The search warrant affidavit indicates that the assigned detective was off work for nine weeks for a medical reason. Police Sgt. Craig Teague, a department spokesman, said case was not originally a “high priority” case because it came in as a “single image case.” Additionally, it is not department protocol to reassign such cases.

‘Something strange’

When Hurst police visited the address on Nov. 12, they encountered Wesson’s parents and learned that the couple’s son now lived in Fort Worth.

The father, Bruce Wesson, was cooperative, affidavits indicate. He told the detective that he suspected his son was gay and had probably looked at child porn.

“Can I tell you something strange?” Bruce Wesson asked the detective, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Wesson said his son showed up in February with a 12-year-old boy named Matthew whom he identified as his son. Wesson told his parents that the boy’s mother had called him from El Paso, said the boy was Wesson’s, and that “she did not want him anymore and he needed to come get the child.”

A DNA test had confirmed his paternity, the younger Wesson said.

Matthew lived with Randy Wesson on David Drive in Fort Worth during the week but spent weekends with the elder Wessons, the affidavit states.

Bruce Wesson said his son kept “Matthew” out of school until August, when he enrolled him at Hurst Hills Elementary School. He didn’t know how his son had enrolled Matthew without proper documents.

Bruce Wesson said he questioned Matthew about his past and his mother, but the boy refused to talk about it.

“Can I tell you something very weird?” Bruce Wesson asked investigators.

He told the detective that “Matthew” — 6 feet tall and able to speak English, Spanish and German — still wore diapers at night.

School enrollment

Investigators learned that Wesson had used a fake Ohio birth certificate in August to enroll Lugo in the sixth grade at Hurst Hills Elementary School under the fictitious name “Matthew Drew Wesson.”

The fake certificate listed Matthew’s mom as 36-year-old Valeria Lagos Villanueva. Investigators could find no such person.

The district residency document presented for enrollment showed a Hurst address, according to the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district.

Principal Elizabeth Sanders told Hurst police that “Matthew” had no prior school records but that his father had explained that his son was from Mexico, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“She said they only attempt to get prior school records if they are from within the United States,” the affidavit states.

Vaccination records indicated “Matthew” had received 12 shots in the 12 months before July 2014. Teague said investigators believe those records were forged.

The school district notified parents of the arrests Thursday evening and sent a second letter home with students on Friday that assured parents that the staff followed enrollment procedures.

“We will continue to review our processes, procedures, and training and will look into measures to prevent the acceptance of falsified documents, as occurred in this case,” the letter said.

School records show Wesson listed an email address that is the same as the one used to post messages in forums that investigators had found.

At Wesson’s Fort Worth home, police seized documents, computers, DVDs and CDs, journals, cellphones, thumb drives and numerous telephones.

Wesson told Hurst dectectives Tuesday that they would find about 42,000 child porn images on his computer, thumb drives, phone and memory cards.

He told police that he met Lugo on Instagram several months ago and drove to El Paso to pick the teen up in Febuary or early March. They have had a sexual relationship since, he said.

The federal warrant for Wesson’s arrest centers on the use of Instagram to transport a picture of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. An affidavit filed by a special agent in the Department of Homeland Security states that Wesson admitted to police that he used Instagram, KIK and ooVoo to upload child pornography.

Included in the thousands of images on Wesson's media devices are three photos depicting pornographic acts involving prepubescent boys that were singled out in the federal affidavit.

After Wesson’s arrest, “Matthew” was taken into CPS custody on the assumption that he was 12. On Wednesday, after investigators learned the boy was actually 17-year-old Lugo, he was arrested as well.

Lugo’s mother told a Texas Ranger that her son had been missing from El Paso for the last six months.

‘A very disturbing case’

Julie Evans, executive director of Alliance for Children, said this case is unusual. In 97 percent of abuse cases, children are victimized by someone they know, she said.

“This is taking it to a new level,” Evans said. “This is certainly something I have never seen in my tenure here. It is certainly an intense way for a perpetrator to gain access to a child.”

Evans said the case illustrates that parents need to be talking to their youngsters about boundaries and how to ask for help.

The Hurst Hills area where Wesson and Lugo lived is a comfortable suburban area where children walk or ride bikes to school and children play at a nearby playground.

“This is a really nice neighborhood,” said James Trimm, who is part of a Facebook group that calls itself Hurst Hills Class of 1978. “We have referred to it as a Leave it to Beaver neighborhood.”

But the case shook the community’s sense of security.

“We showed the guy’s picture to our daughter and asked, ‘Have you seen this man?’ ” said Trimm, who home-schools his children but lives less than a mile from the school.

The HEB school district provided extra counselors at the school Friday to address any student or parent concerns.

Teague said no children in the porn images have been identified. Investigators will analyze images after a forensics process that obtains data and active and deleted computer files.

Teague said they are relying on parents to talk to their children.

“We would really like for the parents to figure out if there was any exposure,” Teague said.

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