Sisters Rescued Through Unique Clues
Two Sisters Rescued
Through a Unique Set of Clues
The pornographic images spotted online by Canadian authorities in 2007 were new—and they were disturbing. They showed a young girl, perhaps only 6 years old, being sexually abused by an adult male.
But the images also contained clues to the girl’s identity—a beer can and a distinctive pair of eyeglasses. Ultimately, those clues helped a dedicated team of investigators rescue the girl, along with her 4-year-old sister, and send their abusers to prison for a very long time.
Here’s what happened:
- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police first noticed the pictures online and compiled them for other law enforcement agencies. Members of the Toronto Police Services analyzing the images discovered a blurry beer can in the background of one picture and, after identifying the brand, learned that it was only manufactured in a handful of states in the northeastern United States. This information was shared with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
- Independent of their Canadian colleagues, officers of the Belfast Police Department in Maine and later the Maine State Police were also studying the images and discovered that the victim had distinctive eyeglasses. This detail was also relayed to NCMEC, and a cooperative effort began among the various law enforcement agencies involved.
- As the investigation continued, the eyeglasses were identified by manufacturer and model number, and the beer manufacturer said that the can in question was only distributed in six states, including New York and Maryland.
- On August 1, 2008, a special agent from our New York office with our Innocent Images National Initiative program opened a case and began canvassing ophthalmologists in the six-state area to see who sold that brand of eyeglasses. Three weeks later, that painstaking investigative work paid off when a Maryland doctor recognized a picture of the victim.
At this point, events in the case accelerated.
- On Monday, August 25, 2008, the Maryland doctor called FBI Agent Michael Sabric in New York to say that not only was the victim his patient, but she had come into his office that very morning—the first day of school—to replace a pair of broken glasses.
- Sabric immediately contacted our Baltimore office cyber squad, which handles child pornography cases as part of our Innocent Images program.
- A surveillance team was mobilized within hours, and when the girl got home from first grade that afternoon, investigators positively identified her as the online victim.
- Around 9 o’clock that night, Special Agent Rachel Corn—a member of the Baltimore cyber squad—had secured a search warrant for the victim’s home. By 10 p.m., a forensic child interviewer, victim assistance representatives, and members of the cyber squad and evidence response team were knocking on the front door of the house.
- Soon, the girl identified her two abusers. Forensic evidence later revealed her younger sister had also been abused.
In October, one of the men involved was sentenced to 45 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor and producing child pornography. His accomplice had already received a 36-year sentence.
“This is the outcome you always hope for,” Agent Corn said. “Rescue the victims and put the abusers away.”
Agent Sabric added that this case “is a great example of local, state, and federal authorities working together toward a common goal. Every piece of information along the way was critical to solving the case.”
- Innocent Images National Initiative