Ken Paxton

Monday, November 24, 2003

Attorney General Abbott Praises 6-Month Success Of Texas Child Predator Initiatives

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today heralded the runaway successes of two major child predator initiatives that have become hallmarks of the first year of his administration

The Fugitive Unit, which targets missing parolees who are child sex offenders, and the Cyber Crimes Unit, which apprehends and jails individuals who attempt to meet children for sex, together have rounded up 64 predators in the past six months.

(Karan Kapoor, Matthew Denison)

"Our efforts to get child predators off the streets are effective and working exceptionally well," said Attorney General Abbott. "I am amazed at these results and am deeply grateful to our brave officers and the many local law enforcement agencies assisting us around the state. I am encouraged by our success, but there is much more to be done. Our Fugitives and Cyber Crimes Unit investigators have no doubt there are plenty of others lurking online and wandering the streets, who want to sexually assault our children. We'll do everything we can to make sure they are stopped."

The Cyber Crimes Unit made its first arrest last May, taking into custody an offender with a lengthy criminal history. James Steven Thornton, 27, a Lampasas parolee at the time, traveled to a fast food restaurant in Bee Cave west of Austin to arrange a sexual encounter with what he thought would be a 13-year-girl. The "girl" turned out to be a Cyber Crimes investigator trained in talking to potential child predators in teen chat rooms. Thornton has been indicted, remains in jail and is being prosecuted by Lampasas District Attorney Larry Allison and Cyber Crimes prosecutors.

Twenty-three other child predators who have traveled to meet children under similar circumstances have been arrested in various counties, two as recently as mid-November. Most have been indicted by grand juries on felony charges.

Attorney General Abbott formed the Fugitive Unit in August as part of his Criminal Investigation Division to fill a significant public safety niche to protect Texas children. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced at the time that almost 200 paroled child sex offenders were unaccounted for and thus were considered dangerous fugitives, with warrants outstanding for their arrests.

In the past two weeks, the Fugitive Unit tracked down and arrested eight missing parolees, bringing to 40 the total arrested since the program began. Included among the 40 arrests, one parolee was found watching children on a busy playground, while another missing predator was on parole after serving time for indecency with a child and murder. The Unit arrested the latest parole violator, Sidney Frank Smith, 57, in San Antonio on November 21. The Fugitive Unit acted on a warrant issued for his arrest after he joined a San Antonio health club with an attached child care facility.

"Our trained investigators have been working with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and with local law enforcement and parole officers statewide to pinpoint and arrest these offenders, who have already been convicted of sex crimes against children," said Abbott. "It is of major importance to get these predators off the streets if they're not going to comply with the terms of their parole."

Arrests have become weekly and sometimes daily events. The latest traveling child predator suspect, Karan Kapoor, 24, a University of Texas student, was arrested by Cyber Crimes officers on November 14 as he arrived in Bastrop County to meet what he thought would be a 13-year-old girl. He is charged with criminal solicitation of a minor and and has been released on $80,000 bond. In addition, Matthew Denison, 30, of Austin, was arrested November 13 in Bastrop where he expected to meet a 13-year-old girl. He also was charged with criminal solicitation. He has been released on $100,000 bond.

In a separate action in Kimble County in mid-November, a grand jury returned an 18-count indictment against Phillip Bryant Stewart, 35, of Junction. His bond was set at $150,000. He was charged with possession of child pornography after Cyber Crimes investigators seized a computer from his home that allegedly contained images of young children. He had already been indicted in Kendall County (Boerne) for attempting to meet what he thought would be a 13-year-old boy in late July. Officers seized the computer in Junction after his arrest in Boerne.