Predators scouring the Internet, targeting children for sex: It's a national problem that Dateline has helped uncover. We got such an overwhelming response from our last investigation— some 15,000 emails from parents, grandparents, teachers and law enforcement— telling us to "keep up the good work," and "keep the issue alive." On Wednesday night, April 26, Dateline is back with the fourth undercover investigation. This time, we traveled to small town America. Even far from the big cities and suburbs, vulnerable young teens are not far from danger. A warning: some of what you're about to read is explicit.
GREENVILLE, OHIO — We’ve set up a new computer sex predator operation in a new location, but one man’s excuse sounds pretty old.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: And what have you heard about those stories?
Alonzo Wade: That there’s pedophiles out there. But that’s not my intention tonight, I just wanted to have a party and have a good time.
Two years ago, Dateline launched an undercover investigation into on-line sexual predators.
We had no idea we were about to expose a national epidemic: adults trolling the Internet looking to meet young teens for sex.
Our investigations revealed the enormity of the problem. Over the course of three undercover stings, we exposed almost 90 men.
Our past investigations have been in major metropolitan areas: the first near New York City, the second in a suburb of Washington D.C., and the third close to Los Angeles.
Could it be that this is a crime that only happens in and around big cities, or does it happen everywhere? Even in rural America?
This report is Dateline’s fourth investigation into Internet predators—only this time, we went straight to the heartland: Greenville, Ohio, population 13,000.
Nestled among the corn fields and cow pastures, Dateline found a large house just the right size for our crew and specialty cameras. It was outside of Dayton Ohio, and six hours from Chicago.
"Frag" and "Del," their screen names, are from Perverted-Justice.com, an online watch dog group that for the last four years has been catching Internet sex predators and exposing them. We hired the organization as consultants so we could watch them do what they normally do— go into chat rooms and pose as 12-to-15-year-olds home alone interested in having sex.
So while the Perverted-Justice decoys troll chat rooms, our crews set up 11 hidden cameras—seven outside covering all angles of the driveway, side, and back of the house and four cameras on the inside.
One man emerges from the shadows. He’s 40-year-old Alonzo Wade. He’s been chatting online about sex with a girl who said she was 15. When she says she’s worried she’ll get pregnant he says “I am fixed.”
He drives 104 miles, more than two hours, to meet the young teen home along. And he’s loaded down with alcohol. Del, pretending to be the young girl waves him in.
Wade (on hidden camera): Where are you?
Del: I just ran upstairs to get a band aid I’ll be right back down okay?
Wade: All right.
Del: Sorry. If I bleed on the carpet, I’ll be totally dead.
Then, he appears to pull down the zipper on the front of his pants. What he was planning to do next we’ll never know. He stops as soon as he sees me.
Chris Hansen: What were you doing with your pants there when you started heading towards the door?
Wade: My zipper came down excuse me (hear zipper go up) I was just going to go outside and make sure everything was okay.
Hansen: You brought quite the selection tonight.
Wade: Yes sir.
Hansen: What do we have here?
Wade: That’s mine.
Alonzo claims the 12 pack of beer and two six packs of Mike’s Hard Lemonade are all just for him.
Hansen: Were you gonna give any to the 15-year-old?
Wade: Oh no no no. No, I don’t do that. I got a 15 year old daughter myself.
Hansen: Well, come on Alonzo, you brought the 12 pack and 2 six packs her to this house.
Wade: What I said was ‘What did she like to drink now?’ Did I say never, ‘What I was gonna bring’ You got it in black and white that I’d say I’d bring it.
Hansen: And you brought it.
Wade: Yes, I did.
Alonzo says he didn’t want to drink in front of his daughter so he came here to drink— not to have sex, but he seems to leave the door open.
Hansen: It appears to be clear from this transcript that you are open to the idea of having sex with this girl.
Wade: Well appear yes. Would I? No, well maybe, maybe.
Hansen: What is it Alonzo yes, no, maybe?
Hansen: So maybe you would have had sex with this girl?
Hansen: What should happen to you Alonzo?
Wade: I should be put in jail.
And that’s exactly what was about to happen. Like our most recent investigation, Perverted-Justice is cooperating with local law enforcement, providing the Darke County, Ohio sheriff’s men with the evidence needed to make an arrest. In Ohio, showing up for sex with a minor after soliciting them online is a felony.
After deputies read Alonzo his rights, he is taken in for questioning, photographed, finger printed and put behind bars.
Detective Mike Burns of the Darke County Sheriff’s department says he contacted Perverted-Justice about doing a sting operation because he was looking for a way to combat Internet predators in his area.
Det. Mike Burns, Darke County Sheriff's department: It was just a miracle from heaven as far as meeting our needs because we are just struggling so badly to get things going that here it is. Here’s the answers for you.
The detective and his men conduct their stakeout from the house across the street and in the mobile home behind the undercover house. Just as they did with Alonzo, once a suspected predator goes in the house, Det. Burns will have his men move into place, ready to make the arrest.
And this time we’ll be doing something new: Because some predators try to get kids to appear in front of Web cams, we hired an actress to pretend to be 12 or 13 years old. She looks the part, but she’s actually 19 years old. When a potential predator sees her, it should be very clear that this could be an underage girl he’s talking dirty to, not an adult.
It’s a parade of potential predators, this time, in the heartland of America.
Our latest computer predator investigation is in full swing. All 11 of our hidden cameras are in place. Any suspected sex predator who approaches the house will be videotaped from the minute he pulls into the driveway until the sheriff’s men spring into action.
More than 20 Perverted-Justice members are in Ohio and surrounding area chat rooms posing as 12-to-15-year-olds. They’ve set up profiles using pictures of young teens, and posted personal information like age, sex and location. Some of the profiles are on social networking Web sites like MySpace and Teenspot. The decoys from Perverted-Justice are waiting to be instant messaged by a potential predator.
In a matter of seconds, men start hitting on the decoys. One man, screenname “greeneyed121,” even goes so far as to suggest phone sex. He found our 13 year old decoy, “katiedidsings” on MySpace.com. He types:
“greeneyed121” (chat log): I have an idea but its a little weird.
“greeneyed121”: I did it with another girl but I don’t know if you want too. Call me up and let me listen to you as you (blank) yourself to orgasm.
The decoy quickly declines the offer saying her dad wants her to get off the computer and come downstairs.
“Greeneyed121” doesn’t seem to mind, after all, he’s already made a date for sex with her in person. “Katiedidsings” told him she would be home alone for the weekend.
“greeneyed121": I have good news, I can come over Friday and stay the night too!!!
“Greeneyed121” is scheduled to arrive at our undercover house around noon. Sure enough, here arrived right on time. Our hidden cameras are rolling.
He’s 23-year-old Nathan Downhour. He says he’s a student at an evangelical college. And what does he plan to do with 'katiedidsings'? His chat log is quite explicit.
"greeneyed121:" My hands will travel down your smooth body, till we reach your pants. Here we will remove your pants and underwear, revealing your beautiful nude body.
And like so many of the other potential predators, his chat turns too X-rated for network television. And he showed up in the undercover house’s living room.
Decoy (on hidden camera): Hey Nathan?
“greeneyed121” or Nathan Downhour: Yup.
Decoy: I just cut the crap out of my toe, I’m getting a band aid, hold out at the kitchen counter okay?
Decoy: I’ll be right back down.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (walks out): Why don’t you do me a favor and just go have a seat right at the other side of the bar please?
He drove more than an hour to keep his date for sex with a girl he thought was 13 and home alone. But he says by the time he got to the door he changed his mind.
Downhour: I didn’t know if I would really be able to go through with it.
Hansen: But you walked in the door.
And as I read some of what he said online, he doesn’t sound like a man who plans to back out.
Hansen: You get into very graphic detail—
Downhour: um-hmm .
Hansen: (reading from chat) --about what you want to do to her. "Fantasies dreamed up on line or in your mind, things you might not be able to willing to do when it comes down to it. I will gently cup and massage your soft breasts, kiss them and run my tongue along them."
Hansen: Then it goes on from there in graphic detail. What are we to make of this?
Downhour: I’m not sure, I don’t know what the law says about this.
Hansen: Well, it’s illegal.
Downhour: But nothing has happened yet.
Hansen: Well I know, but it’s illegal for someone to use the Internet to solicit somebody who’s 13 for sex.
Downhour: That, I was unaware of.
Another stranger has just pulled in the driveway.
Online he calls himself “jteno72960.” He’s also been chatting with the decoy 'katiedidsings'—remember her profile says she’s only 13. He tells her he’s a fireman. Then he gets worried she’s a cop.
jteno72960 (chat log): how do i know your not a cop?? lol
katiedidsings:umm im not a cop
katiedidsings:how do i prov it?
jteno72960: call my cell and leave a sexy message
She does, and then he wants to take it even further and moves on to the subject of phone sex. He asks, “You like hearing guys moan? I want you to call now and make me moan.” "Katiedidsings" says “I will hear ya when you get here.”
And there’s something else: He seems to have a thing for feet.
jteno72960:want me to rub your feet
jteno72960:mmmmmmmmm now i’m getting turned on.
The man with the apparent foot fetish is really 21-year-old Jason Schoeppner.
“jteno72960” or Jason Schoeppner (hidden camera footage): Where you at?
Decoy: I gotta go get a band aid before I bleed all over the rug
Schoeppner: oh ok
Hansen (walks out): Hey, why don’t you hand out and have a seat right over at the bar for me will you? What’s going on?
Schoeppner: Ah (covers his face) (pause)
Hansen: Why don’t you tell me to get things started, tell me what was happening.
Schoeppner: I don’t know.
Hansen: You don’t know.
Schoeppner: I do and I’m sorry.
Hansen: You’re sorry for what?
Schoeppner: For being a friggin’ idiot.
And it turns out Jason really does work at a firehouse— as a paramedic.
Hansen: Now in your chat here you essentially say you’re a firefighter.
Hansen: Don’t you think that might impress a 13-year-old girl?
Schoeppner: Well—I’m sorry—I—
Hansen: What was your plan here today?
Schoeppner: I don’t know.
Hansen: You don’t know?
Schoeppner: I seriously don’t know.
Hansen: Well it looks like you do based upon this chat.
Hansen: What would have happened if I had not been here?
Schoeppner: I would have done something stupid.
Hansen: With a 13 year old girl.
Schoeppner: I don’t know. Probably.
Hansen: If a 13-year-old girl had been here?
And you won’t believe what else he admits.
Hansen: Do you ever watch television?
Hansen: Do you ever watch Dateline?
Hansen: Dateline NBC. Did you ever see our stories on computer predators?
Schoeppner: Yeah I’ve seen it.
Hansen: This is one of them.
Schoeppner: Oh no.
So even after seeing our previous investigations, watching men being confronted and arrested, he wasn’t discouraged from doing the very same thing. And as you’ll see later, he’s not the only one.
Because we’re in such a remote location, most of the men coming to the undercover house have to drive miles and miles over country roads. Some even cross state lines.
One man pulled up to our house from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 112 miles away. He drove more than two hours to meet with someone who said she was an underage teen home alone.
It’s two o’clock in the morning. Like all the other men who visit, he has no idea our hidden cameras are rolling...
Tim Isaac: Where you at?
Del: I have to go change out of my clothes okay?
Del: Just hang out at the bar for a second. I’ll be right back down.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (walks in): It’s a little late to be prowling around these parts huh?
Isaac: Yeah it is isn’t it.
Hansen: Why don’t you have a sit right over here for me?
His name is Tim Isaac, screenname “parknride_469,” a 42-year-old training manager for a global transportation company. He’s been chatting online this evening about having oral sex with a girl who said she was 15, “sadie-the-smarty.”
He wants to know if the sex talk has made her aroused. “Sadie-the-smarty” types, “Well not yet...talk doesn’t do anything for me.”
“Parknride” types back, “Well, my tongue will.”
Hansen: What makes a man get in a car and drive two hours?
Isaac: I don’t know just somebody wanted to meet and I wanted to meet them I guess.
Hansen: At 2 o'clock in the morning?
Isaac: I didn’t really want.. I mean I wasn’t looking for nothing.
Hansen: You walk into a house.
Isaac: Well, I was kinda scared about it to be honest with you.
Hansen: Well, you walked in.
Isaac: I’m not looking for… to like, do anything. I got boys that are 20 and 21, sir.
Isaac: Yes sir.
Hansen: What if one of your kids was home alone and some guy walked in the back door all happy as heck just to be here?
Isaac: To be honest with you, I wouldn’t like it. Sorry, I’m just nervous.
Hansen: What made you think it was okay at 42 years old to walk into a home at ah roughly 2:30 in the morning where a 15-year-old girl was apparently home alone?
Isaac: Well, I wasn’t so sure she was 15 to be honest with you.
Hansen: Well, that’s what she said on the Internet.
Perhaps I can refresh his memory by reading some of his chat log:
Hansen: ‘You’re only 15, a little young for this aren’t ya?’
‘Yup I’m 15 and no I’m not.’
‘Are you still a virgin?’
Isaac: Stupid question for an older man to ask a girl like that.
Hansen: ‘But baby 15 can get me 20.’
Isaac: It probably can, it probably will.
Hansen: Have you ever done time before?
Isaac: Um, very little time for some DUI.
Isaac: Nothing like this sir.
Hansen: You ever do this sort of thing before?
Isaac: No this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this.
That’s the same claim we’ve heard from almost every man we’ve ever confronted. Most say they really weren’t going to do anything sexual. Our sting in Ohio is no different. But one subject does come up for the first time: religion.
Davut Ozkan (on hidden camera): No, this is first.
Hansen: This is your first time.
Ozkan: Yeah. I’m like I shouldn’t do that is also against my religion.
Hansen: It’s against your religion.
He’s 27-year-old Davut Ozkan, screenname“nakzox,” a graduate student from Turkey. He had a sexually-charged online chat with a decoy posing as a 15-year-old.
Hansen: You say at one point, "I don’t want to have any problem you know, kissing is okay."
Hansen: But you also say in the next breath “Have you ever seen a ______.”
Hansen: “I have on the Internet,” she says. Then you say, “Do you want to see mine? You can play with my blank.”
Ozkan: Yes, please don’t read. You can read to yourself.
Hansen: I mean, it sure seems you knew what you were talking about here and you knew what you wanted from this 15-year-old girl.
Ozkan: I don’t want to have sex.
The 27-year-old admits he knew what he was doing was against the law.
Hansen: If you’re so religious, if you knew it was wrong, why did you walk into this house?
Ozkan: I don’t know.
And he wasn’t the only one claiming to be religious: There's 20-year-old Josh Tuttle, screenname “goodbody1330.”
He’s been chatting online with someone who says she’s 13 and a virgin, “jessies_messy13.” After she tells him she has a big screen TV, he says, “Hehe... that’s great...so we can watch movies and cuddle, kiss and makeout, then head up to your bedroom and touch each other and have sex.”
Then he adds, “We can get drunk if you want to, if it will make it feel that much better.”
And then "goodbody1330" walks into the door.
Del: Just sit at the bar for a second ‘k I’ll be right back down.
Joshua Tuttle: Okay.
Del: Did you bring the rum?
Tuttle: No I’ll explain when you get down.
Hansen: Well why don’t you explain it to me instead?
He says he didn’t bring the rum because his brother drank it. “Goodbody1330” goes on to explain that making the decision to come here was a tough one. He says he went to his best friend and believe it or not, says he also turned to the church for guidance.
Tuttle: I have low self-esteem and I have no one else to turn to but God, so I went and talked to my pastor.
Hansen: And what did this pastor tell you?
TUttle: “It’s wrong to do and that he said you should have more faith in yourself.”
Hansen: But you’re here Josh.
Tuttle: To make new friends.
Hansen: With a 13-year-old girl home alone.
He says he really only came here to watch movies and hang out but his chat and something else tell a different story.
Hansen: Did you bring condoms with you?
Tuttle: No sir.
Hansen: There are no condoms in your pocket?
Tuttle: I have one but that’s just it.
Hansen: All right, well, that’s just one lie.
Tuttle: I carry that with me all the time.
Hansen: But you said you didn’t bring any and you did so that’s a lie.
Josh: Yes sir. But I corrected myself, I’m sorry.
Now let’s look at a truly unusual case: Here’s a man who seems to be casing the house, afraid to pull in. After driving by several times, he finally makes his move and walks in the back door.
Del: Hold on, I want to take my coat off after sweating to death, I was freezing.
Hansen: Why don’t you come in and have a seat real quick?
John Frantz: Okay.
He’s 33-year-old John Frantz, a mechanical engineer. He’s been chatting online with a decoy who says she’s 14. Unlike all the men you’ve met so far, Frantz, whose screename is “netbuckeye” is very careful when it comes to talking about sex.
When the decoy “chickygrrrrl” asks “Got any condoms?” He says, “What are those, just kidding.” Then he says, “No worries.” She says, “Is that a yes?”
And he replies “Don’t worry I’m not going to do anything without a condom.” But when I confront him, he says he has no interest in sex.
Hansen: I’m confused though, so if you don’t have any interest in that sort of activity, why then chat up a 14 year old girl and come to visit her?
Frantz: I’m lonely, that is the bottom line.
Frantz: Yes, very lonely.
And once again, this man also says he’s religious.
Hansen: Isn’t there a church group, a saloon or…
Frantz: There is I go to church every Sunday and in fact, I’ve gone to a new church now because I’m not happy with my old one.
Hansen: So does this new church teach you it’s okay to come over and visit 14 year old girls?
Frantz: I would say not.
Hansen: Who are home alone with no parents…
Frantz: They would not recommend that, no.
Then Frantz says something we’ve never heard before...
Frantz: Can I have you read something?
He tells us that out in his car, there’s an envelope on the passenger seat. So Del goes out to get it.
Frantz: I was concerned for my safety, you have to understand, I mean things like that happen.
Hansen: You show up and somebody beats you up or something
Frantz: Well yeah, yeah stuff like that or worse. I mean it could have taken my life for all I know.
He opens the note and starts to read:
“At 8 pm tonight I’m meeting a person who I met online...”
He goes on to say that the girl tried to lure him into talking about sex which he politely declined. And that he is suspicious about her identity.
“...if she really is who she says she is, my intention is to befriend her and try to mentor her.”
So could this man really be here just to mentor a troubled teen? Darke County Detective Burns says he’s not buying this story.
Det. Burns, Darke County Sheriff’s office: We refer to it at the office as an “alibi letter.”
Hansen: Alibi letter?
Det. Burns: Yeah. It was composed in such a way that it’s our belief the he put it there that if he should get caught made it appear that he was completely innocent.
And the detective says the way Frantz cased our house does not make him look like a man on a rescue mission.
Det. Burns: When you look at a vehicle that pulls up in front and stops, drives by, comes back, does the same thing again... If it is his intent that he’s going to go in and counsel this girl… why would you struggle with that issue? I think we saw the battle from within as to whether or not he was going to get caught.
But because his case is so unusual he doesn’t get arrested until after his interrogation. As for all the other men, the detectives don’t hesitate to take them into custody.
40-year-old Alonzo Wade brought a case of alcohol to meet a person he thought was 15.
Alonzo Wade: All I wanted to do is party and you’re trying to find a pedophile, I’m not.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: But you’re here.
Wade: I’m here to party.
Hansen: And maybe have sex with a teenager?
He decides he’s had enough, picks up his alcohol and starts to leave.
Wade: If you put this on the air, I’ll sue.
A few men other men head for the door as soon as they find out who I am. But in Ohio, many of the men keep talking even after they find out they’re going to be on TV.
Josh Tuttle: It’s in the laws hands and God’s hands,
Hansen: You sound like a pretty religious guy.
Tuttle: Yes sir.
Hansen: Again you’re free to leave free to have your condom back.
Tuttle: (laughs) Thank you. I’m ashamed.
Tuttle: Truly ashamed.
And what about the men who’ve seen our previous investigations?
On 23-year-old man who drove across state lines and brought alcohol for a 13-year-old.
Hansen: You’ve seen this on TV before, so you know what’s about to happen?
Ronnell: Oh no.
Hansen: This is the part where I say, “I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC” and the cameras come out.
Ronnell: Okay I realize I made, coming here was a mistake, but, good thing that it didn’t progress to nothin’ further.
Hansen: It’s a good thing we were here and a 13 year old girl was not
Hansen: So that’s the good news tonight.
Ronnell: I don’t know I just apologize for offending anybody.
Hansen: Did you ever see our stories on computer predators?
One 21-year-old paramedic with the apparent foot fetish came to meet a 13-year-old.
Hansen: So you’ve seen these stories before?
Jason Schoeppner: Yeah.
Hansen: Didn’t you for one minute think that this might have been something just like that?
Hansen: But you came anyway.
It looks as if he doesn’t want to leave. Since he’s admitted seeing our earlier broadcasts, he probably knows what’s going to happen next.
Finally, after several requests...
Hansen: Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to go.
He gets up and walks out the door, right into the arms of the detectives from the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.
All along Del from Perverted-Justice has been running across the street giving the detectives chat logs of potential predators before they arrive.
Det. Mike Burns, Darke County Sheriff’s office: We were able to look down through the chat logs and determine whether or not a crime had been committed once we knew for sure that somebody was coming. I was maintaining contact with Perverted-Justice through radio means.
So as the men leave, the deputies move in and arrest them, and charge them with attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor—a felony. In Ohio, in order for prosecutors to file the most serious charges, a police officer needs to be involved in the online chat or phone conversation.
Since in this case, Perverted-Justice members are the decoys, the sheriff’s department temporarily deputized the volunteers who were in our house.
After they are read their rights, the men are taken to an auxiliary building for an official interview. Now it’s the detectives turn to ask the questions.
Detective: Why did you come here in the first place?
Nathan Downhour: To see a 13-year old girl in that house.
What they’ve already told “Dateline” is eye opening.
Now wait until you hear what they reveal to detectives. “Greeneyed121,” the 23-year-old student at an evangelical Christian college who typed a detailed description about having sex with a 13-year-old.
Downhour: I couldn’t stop thinking about it, what would happen if I got caught. I was caught.
Sheriff’s deputies find a box of condoms in his car, but he tells the detective they just happened to be there.
Detective: Have you ever had sex before?
Detective: Never? so you have a box of condoms with you, you’ve never had sex before, the whole plan was to have sex with this 13-year old when you got here correct?
Downhour: That was the original plan.
He insists he wasn’t going to go through with it. Detectives also question the 42-year-old who showed up at 2 a.m. planning to meet a girl who told him she was 15.
He tries to convince the detective he had no intention of having sex with a 15-year-old.
Detective: You would like me to believe that you just traveled 112 miles for a couple of hours.
Tim Isaac: You know what, I would like you to believe that.
Detective: --just to visit a 15 year old girl whose parents aren’t home and you want her to keep that a secret?
Detective: Ok and you still want me to believe despite the fact that I have chat here about you talking about ‘Are you wet yet, I want to suck this’
Isaac: Well, I would like for you to think the better half of me but you got what you got there and it doesn’t look good on me.
It doesn’t look good for the 21-year-old paramedic who has a thing about feet.
Detective: What did you and Kat discuss or plan specifically to do once you met, or known she was 13 years old?
Jason Schoeppner: Hang out.
Detective: Hang out, nothing else.
Schoeppner: I guess sexual stuff—kiss, rub her feet, stuff like that.
Cop: Rub her feet.
Once the interrogations are over, the men are taken to the county jail where they’re photographed, finger printed, stripped searched and put behind bars—awaiting a hearing before a judge. Most face up to 18 monthsin prison.
One potential predator thinks he’s chatting with our actress who’s posing as a 13-year-old virgin. We’ve hired her to play the role of a young teen on the phone and on a Web cam. Del from Perverted-Justice is typing on the computer.
He’s26-year-old James Rutherford, screenname “iurutherford.” He’s been chatting online for more than a week with “prncessdanika.”
Del, Perverted-Justice volunteer: He started off very slowly, trying to convince the girl that he could be trusted he ended up getting a Web cam.
And what does the 26 year old do with his Web cam? He starts putting on a show. He takes off his shirt, flexes his muscles and even shows off his pierced tongue.
He tries to convince the decoy to do a bit of a show as well. Several times he asks the actress to show him her stomach. She finally agrees and he says, “Nice tummy hun. I want to lick that.” Then he says “I owe you something now don’t I.”
Del: And then he starts pulling the boxers down a little bit. Doesn’t go all the way down…
He’s actually talking to an actress (who he thinks is 13) as he watches her on a Web cam. As the chat progresses and plans are made to meet, he types “I’m so freaking horny... You know if you had me naked I’d want more right?”
But just before he gets in his car to come over, he calls...
Actress (on phone): I was really looking forward to it that’s not fair. I’m so bored here.
It appears the man is having second thoughts. Could it be that he’s actually having a change of heart and is questioning his own behavior?
Actress: I was like, “Are you gonna call if you’re coming or not coming?” and he’s like, “I’ll call either way.”
A few hours go by and we don’t hear from Rutherford, we assume he’s not coming—until suddenly someone spots him pulling into the driveway. His red Corvette drives around to the back of the house. The decoy goes out to wave him in.
(Hidden camera footage) A knock on door
Decoy: The door is open.
James Rutherford: (opens door) Where are you?
Decoy: Let me just finish getting ready, I’ll be right out there
Rutherford: Come here.
Decoy: No I promise I’ll be right back
Rutherford: No come here—
Decoy: Just wait you gotta be a little patient.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (walks in): Actually, I want you to come here
Rutherford: That’s what I thought.
Rutherford says he had a feeling this was a setup. Still, there was no denying what he’d been up to...
Hansen: Who did you think you were going to meet here?
Rutherford: Just this kid I’d been talking to.
Hansen: This kid.
Rutherford: I know she’s a kid.
Hansen: How old?
Rutherford: 13, 14
Hansen: 13, and how old are you?
Rutherford: Too old for a 13 or 14-year-old.
But there’s one thing he doesn’t want to tell us.
Hansen: What do you do for a living?
Rutherford: I’d rather not say. Who do you work for?
Hansen: I’ll get to that in a minute.
Rutherford: No, I’d really like to know, I’m sure I’m on TV or something right now.
Apparently the man has seen our investigations before and doesn’t want to reveal what he does for a living on national TV. So I ask him again.
Hansen: Why don’t you just tell me what you do for a living?
Rutherford: I’m a teacher.
Hansen: And what grade do you teach?
Rutherford: 6th grade.
Hansen: 6th grade. So you teach kids about the same age as the girl you were coming to see?
James Rutherford is a sixth grade teacher at a Catholic School in Cincinnati, where he also coaches track. He drove two hours to get here.
Rutherford: I would never do anything (hand over face) I don’t know why I’m here.
Hansen: You were on your Web cam showing off in front of this 13-year old-girl and the conversation you had with this girl—
Rutherford: Was bad, I know, I know. I don’t know why, I need help.
Then the teacher offers this excuse:
Rutherford: I am going through a divorce. My wife Thursday told me she was leaving me.
Hansen: Yeah but that doesn’t make it right for you to…
Rutherford: I know.
Hansen: …to have this kind of a conversation.
Rutherford: I know I shouldn’t have.
The teacher admits he’s chatted with underage kids before and was worried that it had become a problem for him—a serious problem that was getting worse.
Rutherford: I thought about this a lot, for years, maybe I should just stop, maybe I should get counseling, maybe I should get help and I said “Well it’s not that big a deal, I’ve never taken it to this step.” I don’t know if this week just pushed me over the edge.
But fortunately, he’s fallen over the edge into our undercover investigation, instead of an encounter with a real child.
Hansen: Do you ever watch Dateline NBC?
Rutherford: Oh damn. I’ve seen one of those. That’s one of the reasons I thought “Why am I doing this?” This could be a setup.
Hansen: You’ve actually seen one of our previous programs on computer predators.
Rutherford: I didn’t think I was a predator. I wasn’t coming here for anything physical.
That’s a common excuse we’ve heard again and again and this man knows it.
Rutherford: I know you’ve heard this, hell I’ve seen people sitting here and say the same stuff.
Hansen: You were suspicious. You had seen our previous stories and probably got a chuckle about what happened to some of these guys.
Rutherford: Yeah. Honestly, I sat there and watched and said “Those guys are sick why would you do that.” And that was what about a month, month and a half ago. And then here I am.
But what about the young students he comes in contact with every day? Has this teacher ever crossed that line? His online chat comes uncomfortably close...
Hansen: “I could be your teacher, would you flirt with me?” She says, “Wink at you and stuff.”
Rutherford: I never ever crossed a line like that with a person that was a student, I never even thought about it. I guess maybe online it was like they weren’t real.
Hansen: I guess the question that some people might ask is this, if you eventually evolve to the point to meet a 13-year-old girl after this…
Rutherford: It would have gotten worse.
Hansen... conversation, what point do you suddenly become interested in kids from the school?
Hansen: It’s a legitimate question.
He talked to us for more than 40 minutes. Several times he asked, “Are the police outside? Am I going to get arrested?” In fact, while he was inside detectives from the Darke county sheriff’s office had moved into place and were waiting to arrest him.
Hansen: Well, Jim I appreciate your time.
Rutherford: I’m sorry and tell that kid I’m sorry.
What started as a possible meeting with a child ends in an encounter with police—in which he confesses even more during interrogation.
Detective: I think you do have a problem.
Detective: And you’re admitting that ok. That you have talked to a minor before, 13 years of age. Do you masturbate while doing this?
Rutherford: I have yeah.
Detective: So you’re driven by this.
Rutherford: Sir, it’s not like it’s—
Detective: just listen to me
Rutherford: No, I think I feel like I should at least tell you, it’s not like I get on there specifically looking for kids.
Regardless of his explanation, the teacher is transported, just like all the other men, to the county jail, where he is photographed, fingerprinted, strip searched and thrown in jail.
From his jail cell he calls his employer. Rutherford's attorney tells us that Rutherford resigned his position to spare his students. What happens to him next is in the courts hands.
More on the investigation in Greenville, Ohio airs on Dateline Wednesday, May 3, 9 p.m.
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