Tucked like a thumbprint inside a bend in the Meramec River southwest of St. Louis, Miramiguoa Park is a remarkably secluded piece of real estate. Surrounded on three sides by the river, the sparsely populated — 127 residents at last count — 200-acre village guards its landward flank with the entirety of Meramec State Park, whose woodlands and bluffs stretch south and west through the Franklin County Ozarks. Only about 50 miles from downtown St. Louis as the crow flies, Miramiguoa is half again more distant to reach by car. To get there one must stay on Interstate 44 all the way to Sullivan, then exit and double back through five miles of state forestland. At winter's dusk, the leafless trees on the hilltops cast jagged silhouettes against the pale sky, and you might catch a smoky whiff of recently chopped timber.
You wouldn't think so to look at it, but for a brief time in 2009, one little house in Miramiguoa was the focus of significant attention. Back then an incongruous sticker festooned a pane of glass in the front door: the goofy, good-natured visage of the cartoon canine Scooby-Doo.
The man who rented the place wasn't well known to neighbors. No one appeared to take much note of him or the young boy with whom he sometimes came and went.
On the chilly afternoon of Oct. 23, 2009, a team of five state and federal law enforcement agents drove into Miramiguoa Park and took up positions that offered clear views of the cottage. Two more officers parked up the road, just outside the village. For several weeks the lawmen had been looking into a tip from the Los Angeles Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Now they were waiting for the man inside the house to come out.
Brian Mize, 38, is a bona fide, card-carrying computer geek.
A St. Louis–based forensic investigator who serves as a special federal officer with the FBI's cybercrime squad, Mize also finds time to teach Internet investigation techniques at the St. Louis County Police Academy (and, on the bureau's behalf, around the world) and to attend local and national hacker conferences undercover.
One of Mize's investigative specialties is child pornography. His résumé dates back to the VHS days and includes the infamous Michael Devlin case, wherein a suburban pizza-parlor manager kidnapped a rural Missouri boy, whom he held hostage and molested for four years. (That ordeal ended in 2007, when agents investigating a recent abduction apprehended Devlin and were shocked to find not only the boy they were looking for but also one who'd been missing since 2003 and had been all but given up for dead.) Mize often educates parents and teachers about how much easier child molestation has become in the digital era, when so many young children are equipped with smartphones.
The nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that it received 17.3 million pornographic images and videos last year through its Victim Identification Program — twice as many as the program amassed in 2008.
"It's no longer a 6-foot cord attached to the wall. Bad guys have unprecedented access to communication with kids and it's made things more dangerous," says Mize, sitting at a desk in his office in Clayton, Mo., surrounded by the electronic tools of his trade.
Beneath his desk is a behemothic computer that would dwarf a typical workstation. Known as FRED, an acronym for "Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device," the hunk of hardware is designed to create bit-for-bit copies of each piece of electronic evidence investigators seize in a case and to facilitate the process of decrypting data that have been rendered unreadable and password-protected.
FRED's capabilities — and Mize's — were put to the test in the fall of 2009, after an FBI colleague summoned him to a house in the backwoods of southern Franklin County.
A year earlier, in October 2008, FBI agents in Los Angeles got a tip from the bureau's legal attaché in Copenhagen indicating that two men, Harout Hagop Sarafian of North Hollywood and Woodrow Tracy of Sun Valley, had traveled to Romania the previous year in order to have sex with young boys.
After obtaining federal warrants, L.A.'s Sexual Assault and Felony Enforcement Team [SAFE], a task force composed of federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers at the local, state and federal levels — arrested both men and seized computer equipment that turned out to contain an abundance of child pornography.
Both Sarafian and Tracy eventually confessed to investigators that they belonged to a group that called itself "Lost Boy," an international network of pedophiles who exchanged copious quantities of child pornography, including photos and videos depicting men sexually molesting young boys. Lost Boy operated a password-protected online forum that allowed members to post digital images and discuss each other's contributions; the group also made use of a popular file-sharing site, alerting fellow members by posting samples on the Lost Boy forum along with links to the downloadable files.
Although the investigators regularly trolled the Web for clues that might lead to active child-porn message boards, this was the first they'd heard of Lost Boy.
For the task force, the learning curve was both steep and swift. Tracy provided his screen name and password and, under the guise of their informant, the investigators were able to build a profile of the group: about three-dozen members on four continents, who identified themselves as "boylovers" and posted under aliases including "Bobo," "Undy12" and "Harry Potter."
Court documents, including a 45-page federal grand jury indictment filed in September 2009 and a 41-page sworn affidavit from an Ohio FBI agent, itemize a vast array of pornographic images involving young boys, described in numbing clinical detail: "[O]ne image depicts a nude, prepubescent boy kneeling on a bed with his buttocks in the air exposing his anus, scrotum and penis. There is semen on his buttocks." Another image "depicts the face of a prepubescent boy bent over a bed and facing down. Behind him, a post-pubescent male appears to be engaging in anal sex with the boy, while holding a revolver pointed at the boy's buttocks." A series of seven images "depict a minor boy, approximately 12 -13 years old, with a baseball bat inserted in the boy's anus. Two of the images depict what appears to be the same boy, with a Crayola marker inserted in his anus. In the message, [Lost Boy member] mr bean wrote 'almost baseball season ... .' "
Most of the boys in the photos were between 7 and 12 years of age. One had Down syndrome.
Among the videos the L.A. task force found were several that featured an identical opening sequence: an image swirling into focus to reveal Hanna-Barbera's iconic animated Great Dane Scooby-Doo, accompanied by the tagline "Scooby-Doo Productions." The agents would discover that Scooby-Doo videos had cropped up in child-porn investigations nationwide, but no one had been able to trace the videos back to their source.
In its efforts to evade detection, the group resembled an exclusive country club. A prospective Lost Boy had to be nominated by a current member, and in order to remain in good standing, all members were required to upload new images on a regular basis; a prolonged stretch of inactivity was taken as a sign that authorities had hijacked a member's account.
Court documents indicate that members believed they were immune to detection. "[S]ome Latin boys for your enjoyment," wrote one. "Have fun and watch out for sticky keyboards, lol," posted another. "That top boy is super hot," one man commented on a fellow member's recent contribution.
In another exchange, a member expressed his distaste for "Asian boys or darker," writing, "If I had one in my arms, they would just be like tissue paper. Use and then throw away."
Responded a fellow commenter: "yeesh why throw them away when you know that me and [Lost Boy member] flipper will gladly take them? [emoticon]"
A subsequent commenter on the same thread offered: "hey! i am attracted to tissue paper so i don't appreciate your comments. i like the rolled up kind that most people call toilet paper. i saw a roll at the grocery store the other day that looked good to me. it was 100% recycled roll so it wasx [sic] slightly darker than the rest. that turned me on. it was really soft and smooth and had a good personality. i paid a man so I could take it home with me. we played, Xbox, watched some Adam Sandler movies, and then had sweaty sex on the floor. the next day we went into town and i bought it a skateboard."
The 2009 Los Angeles indictment named 12 alleged Lost Boy members and charged them with operating a child-exploitation enterprise; conspiracy to advertise, transport, receive, distribute, solicit and possess child pornography; and transportation of child pornography.
But the task force was left with more questions than answers. It had uncovered a mother lode of child porn and rooted out a diverse crew of pedophiles who got their kicks from viewing and sharing it.
But who was producing the material? Who were the men in the photos and the videos, committing seemingly countless acts of molestation?
Who — and where — were the children?
Carrie Costantin's office on the 21st floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse faces north, affording the federal prosecutor an enviable view of downtown St. Louis' Gateway Mall. At 50, the veteran assistant U.S. attorney, who grew up in suburban St. Louis and studied law at the University of Chicago, is slightly built, slim and easygoing, blessed with a streak of spontaneous, understated humor that belies the dark nature of her specialization.
During her 11 years trying cases for the Eastern District of Missouri, Costantin has prosecuted hundreds of child molesters. In 2006 she was named the regional coordinator for the U.S. Department of Justice's new Project Safe Childhood program, a national initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of minors. (She stepped down last year in order to assume a new role as supervisor of the district's white-collar crime unit.) It's possible that Costantin has tried more child-pornography cases than anyone else in the nation.
In the 12 months ending in September 2010, the Eastern District of Missouri took on 84 child-exploitation cases — more than any other judicial district in the United States. In each of the two years preceding, the office ranked second.
In September 2009 Costantin received a call from federal agents in St. Louis, indicating that a Los Angeles investigation of an Internet-based network of child-porn aficionados had turned up a possible connection to the St. Louis metropolitan area.
A pedophile living abroad had told the L.A. investigators that a man who went by the screen name "Muddyfeet" was producing copious quantities of child pornography in Missouri. "Muddyfeet" also came up during questioning of a Lost Boy suspect, who attributed a large set of pornographic stills of young boys to a photographer who operated under that alias. A third clue, an archived chat-room exchange between a Lost Boy member and an outside acquaintance who went by the screen name Muddyfeet that was found on a computer seized by the L.A. team as evidence, brought the picture into better focus: The file included an email address, which the agents were able to trace to Franklin County, Mo., and a man named Jeffrey Greenwell.
The information was tantalizing, but Costantin knew better than to be optimistic. It would be difficult, she knew, to secure a search warrant, let alone prosecute anybody, with nothing to go on but an Internet alias, two addresses, a possible name and a handful of photos of unidentified boys being molested.
"In order to get a search warrant, we needed to identify a child," Costantin explains.
At the same time, she was fully cognizant of the urgency involved. Her L.A. counterparts were pursuing an ongoing child-porn enterprise and had good reason to presume that some of the men involved were actively molesting children. As Michael Osborn, the FBI agent who heads the SAFE task force in L.A., notes, "We knew there were hands-on victims out there that we had to ID as quickly as possible. We didn't have a six-month luxury. Every day counted."
The FBI assigned a St. Louis–based agent to track down the lead. For local assistance, the bureau turned to the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.
Lt. Chuck Subke, who runs the county Sheriff's detective division, began by visiting the two addresses linked to Greenwell. One was vacant. The other, about the size of a single-wide mobile home, was tucked at the back end of Meramec State Park, a few hundred yards from the river.
Subke traced the license plates on the two cars he saw parked in front of the little house. Both were registered in Greenwell's name. It appeared he was living there alone.
Next Subke and the FBI agent visited several Franklin County elementary schools, where they asked each principal to go through the handful of photos of fully clothed boys they'd received from L.A., in search of familiar faces. On Oct. 22, 2009, two weeks into a fruitless fishing expedition, they got their first nibble when a principal pointed out one of the boys in his school's hallway — a fourth-grader.
The lawmen contacted the boy's mother, then flew in an FBI investigator from Detroit who specialized in questioning children and adolescents. The investigator, Catherine S. Connell, had spent the past year flying around the nation, interviewing the majority of the victims who'd emerged from the Lost Boy probe.
Speaking with children about molestation is tricky, as evidenced most infamously in the 1980s by the McMartin Preschool case in Manhattan Beach. That fiasco, which cost the U.S. government $15 million and led to the jailing of an innocent man for five years, was brought on by false testimony, embellished to the point of absurdity, that a therapist elicited from hundreds of children.
You don't set out to upset the children you interview, Connell explains, but you don't want them to suppress memories that by their nature are upsetting. Nor do you want to put words in their mouths. "You talk about the truth, and you test whether they can tell the difference between a truth and a lie."
Connell says that when broaching potentially traumatizing subjects with kids, she's careful to be both reassuring and skeptical.
"I try to reduce suggestibility and authority," she says, describing a technique based on guidelines adopted by the state of Michigan designed to prevent kids from fabricating stories. "The difference between what we do and what other investigators do is that we go in unbiased, seeking to test the hypothesis rather than confirm it. We use phrases like, 'If you don't know the answer, then tell me you don't know it.' "
While the St. Louis–based FBI agent watched a live video feed in a room nearby, Connell sat down one-on-one with the fourth-grader. As soon as the boy told her that Jeffrey Greenwell had fondled his genitals and photographed the experience, the FBI agent phoned Subke.
"I said, 'I got it, Chuck, let's go,' " he recalls. (The agent consented to an on-the-record interview for this story on the condition that his identity not be revealed. The FBI's St. Louis division declined to share any details about the Greenwell case that might identify any of the victims or jeopardize future investigations.)
Subke, who had prepared for this eventuality by readying a search warrant, led his team into the woods.
The FBI agent also alerted Brian Mize, asking the decryption specialist to drive down from Clayton to lend his expertise in collecting evidence.
A mere 24 hours after the school principal pointed out the fourth-grader, federal agents and Franklin County detectives reached Miramiguoa Park. When they saw Greenwell, a bald man with a close-cropped beard, exit his house and drive away, the search team went in.
The Scooby-Doo sticker on the door was merely a preview of what they would find inside.
"The whole place was littered with Scooby-Doo," Mize recounts, enumerating the highlights: a Scooby-Doo bedspread, a life-size Scooby-Doo blowup doll and numerous Scooby-Doo figurines.
There was also a small dog in a crate in the living room, happily wagging its tail. The dog's name, Subke recalls, was Scrappy.
What with the square jaw and short-cropped hair, Brian Mize's appearance practically screams cop. In fact, the computer forensics whiz is a detective on the Chesterfield police force in west St. Louis County. But when he talks about crime-scene analysis, Mize sounds more like a physician, which is what he aimed to be back when he majored in biology. Then he fell in love with law enforcement.
"We're crime-scene technicians, and our magnifying glass is software, which lets us look for clues," he sums up.
Mize belongs to the Regional Computer Crimes Education and Enforcement Group, a task force launched in 2002 in order to team the FBI's area cybercrime squad with its counterparts from the U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement agencies. Working as a unit, the group provides technical forensic support to fight computer crimes throughout Missouri, including those related to child abuse.
The FBI seized two computers from Greenwell's cottage, along with multiple external storage drives, two digital cameras and a Sony Handycam video camera, as well as a cache of DVDs and CDs the agents found locked in a safe. (Greenwell's landlord later found a third digital camera, wrapped in clothing, while clearing out his former tenant's bureau drawers.)
Mize quickly saw that Greenwell had encrypted the hard drive on his main PC. After working his way past the suspect's safeguards, Mize found 15,000 still images of child pornography. Some of the photos included Greenwell or other men in the frame, engaging in sex with the boys.
Many of the photos were composed so as not to reveal faces. In order to identify victims, Mize searched for recurring details — a birthmark or scar, or a specific pair of pajamas, for example — and began the painstaking process of sorting and grouping the images. If he noticed a discarded article of children's clothing in the background of one photo and then spotted it being worn by a boy in another, he'd group the photos together.
In this fashion, Mize was able to create a file for each suspected victim. These he named "1 Series," "2 Series" and so on. For each series, he created a "sanitized," nonpornographic image that showed the boy's face and any distinctive physical features that might aid in identification. The work took weeks. When he was finished, Mize believed he had found at least five victims whom Greenwell had molested — and perhaps as many as 10.
Investigators subsequently were able to determine that Greenwell had been molesting and photographing his victims since at least 2003. Most of the photos were taken in whatever home Greenwell was renting at the time, though some were shot during excursions to other towns and tourist attractions.
Investigators in Los Angeles found that one area of the Lost Boy forum was conceived as a work in progress, an ever-growing handbook of tips on how to coerce boys into a trusting relationship, a process often referred to as "grooming." Every Lost Boy member was expected to contribute to the handbook, which contained suggestions such as targeting children living in broken homes or impoverished conditions and going after the sons of drug abusers. One member reported, "Introverted boys from Latin America's poor broken homes (street kids) are the easies to handled [sic] and for cost per boy ratio they are the cheapest."
Elsewhere the handbook advised plying boys with drugs, alcohol and sleeping pills in order to lower their inhibitions, and suggested molesting them while they're unconscious. Another section offered advice on ways to move on from victims who've outgrown their allure.
At the Sheriff's office in Union, Mo., the Franklin County seat, Chuck Subke slides a red binder across a conference room table. A sticker on the cover reads: Sensitive information enclosed. Not for public release. Law enforcement eyes only.
Inside is a 175-page document titled, "How to practice child love. Child love explained by professionals." Subke and the St. Louis FBI agent say the handbook is much like the one on the Lost Boy forum, covering everything from "risks involved" and "when to start/what age" to "exploring the child's genitals" and "making love for the first time." This particular version contains a section called "Our Latest Project: How to kidnap children."
The FBI agent observes: "It's basically Wikipedia for predators."
The St. Louis investigators point out one section that has particular relevance to the Greenwell case.
Its title: "Single parents and moms with kids."
"Unfortunately not all of us are blessed with children in our lives, as in having our own children, or children in the family," the chapter begins. "But do not worry, that is not a show stopper."
The handbook suggests advertising for dates on websites and in newspapers and limiting one's search to single mothers looking for long-term relationships. "The usual guy does not really like single moms with a lot of kids running around," the book states. "So these moms are therefore suffering from the lack of men, love and self-confidence." Readers are encouraged to emphasize a mom's "inner values" during courtship.
"We want to apologize in advance for this statement," the writer warns. "The uglier and fatter the moms, the easier it will be for you to get into that family."
(Mize notes that pedophiles increasingly are connecting with their young prey via interest-specific websites, such as a youth soccer team's home page. Sometimes, Mize says, predators adjust their Facebook profiles to match the interests of the kid they're targeting. The near-ubiquity of smartphones facilitates communication out of range of parents' prying eyes and ensures that video capability is a touchscreen away.)
FBI investigators say Jeffrey Greenwell relied on a consistent method to seduce boys: In nearly every instance, he sought out single mothers on online dating websites. He would romance a woman and spoil her son, lavishing the boy with attention and gifts. After a time he'd move the relationship to a more intimate level, taking the boy on trips to Six Flags or baby-sitting him and, finally, sexually molesting him.
"You're talking about the best predators ever," the federal agent from St. Louis says. "Greenwell was very smooth-talking. He dressed normally. He wooed the heck out of the mothers. This wasn't 'the guy in the ice cream truck.' "
The agent points to a flowchart the investigators created to diagram Greenwell's various connections to molestation victims and their parents, as well as two suspected fellow pedophiles. He gestures to photos of four mothers and ticks off Greenwell's tie to each: "boyfriend, boyfriend, baby-sitter, co-worker."
Subke and his partner from the FBI questioned their quarry at the Sheriff's office on the evening of his arrest.
Subke began by offering Greenwell, then 37 years old, a soda. After reading him his rights, the investigators explained that there had been some allegations made against him. At first the conversation skewed toward small talk. A request for a transcript of the interrogation under the federal Freedom of Information Act was denied by the Records Management Division in Winchester, Va., because the investigation into Lost Boy is ongoing. But Subke and the St. Louis–based federal agent consented to describe the interview.
"Mr. Greenwell, what kinds of hobbies are you into?" asked the detectives.
Scooby-Doo, SpongeBob and playing Xbox, the suspect replied.
"What's your type, Mr. Greenwell? Guys or girls?"
Guys, the man answered. Young males, specifically — around 8 to 12 years old. "But I don't like hard-core sex images," he asserted. "Society doesn't look too kindly upon adult males who like young boys."
"Let's talk about child porn," the interrogators suggested a little later.
"They're boring," the suspect replied. His computer skills, he added in response to another question, were "beginner to low intermediate." He said he had encrypted the contents of his hard drive "because of personal information."
The FBI agent asked about a framed photo of a boy he'd seen on a wall in Greenwell's home: It appeared to be a formal school portrait. Greenwell explained that it was an old photo of a boy to whom he'd been a father figure.
After a while the investigators brought up the fourth-grader who had described how Greenwell had sexually molested him. Eventually Greenwell admitted that he had fondled the boy's penis and photographed the experience.
But Greenwell didn't stop there.
Mindful of Greenwell's penchant for Scooby-Doo merchandise, the interrogators broached the topic in the hope that he might be familiar with the "Scooby-Doo Productions" material L.A. investigators had turned up on Lost Boy. But instead of referencing those videos, Greenwell described a pornographic video a friend had sent to him — and also a nonpornographic video he had made, which featured the son of a co-worker playing in a park.
"We didn't know what the hell he was talking about," says the FBI agent. "So we played off of it."
"Yeah, tell us about those other videos," the agent prompted.
At that Greenwell abruptly opened up.
He admitted incorporating Scooby-Doo imagery into the home movie he'd shot in the park, featuring a boy he knew. He began spouting "computer lingo," as the agent puts it — saying he'd used the Sony Vegas software to tag three other videos with his "Scooby-Doo Productions" imprimatur. He hadn't shot those videos, he said; they'd been sent to him by acquaintances. He said he'd blurred background details so as not to reveal where the videos had been shot.
"Everyone knew him as 'the computer guy,' " the federal agent notes in retrospect. "If there was something in the background that identified someone, he would take care of it."
The detectives asked Greenwell who'd sent him the videos. One man was from New Hampshire, he said; another, who went by the screen name "SpongeBob," was from Utah.
The investigators could hardly believe what they were hearing.
"L.A. was hot after 'SpongeBob,' " the FBI agent explains. When Greenwell offered up the man's name, Antonio Cardenas, "We immediately call L.A., and Salt Lake starts their investigation full-bore."
Greenwell kept talking.
He admitted that the framed photo on his wall was of a boy he'd molested, and he told Subke and the agent where the boy's mother lived. He admitted he was "Muddyfeet." He admitted to operating a child-porn message board of his own, called "aLL bois." He identified by name all of the boys in photos that had been sent from Los Angeles. He coughed up the screen names of 10 additional fellow porn traders.
After three and a half hours of questioning, minus a few breaks for cigarettes, Greenwell finally wound down.
The next day Subke and his partner from the FBI set out to find the boy in the framed photograph.
As he catalogued the contents of Greenwell's porn cache, Brian Mize considered how to identify the men in the photos. Part of the solution lay in the DVDs Greenwell had stashed in his safe.
Though Mize encountered pornographic examples of Greenwell's Scooby-Doo Productions handiwork, the DVDs in the safe contained no sexually explicit content but instead depicted scenes from trips Greenwell took with other men and small groups of boys. Destinations included nearby attractions Six Flags and Jellystone Park, as well as towns in Arkansas and Illinois. The footage was outwardly innocuous, though every now and then the banter betrayed the men's forbidden proclivities. Mize viewed the travelogues over and over again for four straight days, searching for clues.
Eventually he found one.
During a road trip to Arkansas, one of Greenwell's adult traveling companions pointed out various landmarks, leading Mize to conclude that the man must live in that state. After watching for hours, the cyber-sleuth heard Greenwell address the man by name: Evan.
Mize had Greenwell's cellphone, and when he checked it, he discovered a match — a man named Evan Batton, who turned out to be a youth pastor at a Baptist church near the town of Dardanelle, off Interstate 40 about 80 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Just as he had with Greenwell, Mize constructed a photo series for each boy he suspected was one of Batton's victims. He sanitized one photo for each series and sent the package to his colleagues in Arkansas. Batton later was arrested and convicted of raping a 7-year-old.
In the end Mize discovered two more names through video analysis and repeated his cataloguing process twice more, preparing a package for agents in another Midwestern state and one in New England. By the time investigators located the New England suspect, the man had committed suicide; the Midwestern suspect remains at large.
Meanwhile, in December 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice announced that its investigation had dismantled the Lost Boy network. Federal authorities in Los Angeles had indicted 19 defendants on charges of running a child-exploitation enterprise. Two were charged with production of child pornography. (To date, 15 have been convicted, including Harout Hagop Sarafian and Woodrow Tracy. One died in custody; three remain at large. Only one defendant has been sentenced. An FBI spokeswoman in L.A. declines to reveal whether Sarafian and Tracy were promised leniency in exchange for providing information, saying only, "It's fair, as a general statement, to say that cooperation is among multiple variables that factor into a sentence for a given defendant.") Fourteen Lost Boy members living in foreign countries were indicted in absentia.
All told, the authorities identified 200 victims.
"You can't overstate the significance of rescuing more than 200 kids worldwide, so it was obviously a good day," says the FBI's Michael Osborn, the special agent who supervises L.A.'s SAFE task force. His team, Osborn says, watched long-term victims "basically growing up in front of our eyes" as they gathered photographic evidence.
The Lost Boy investigation produced 20 spinoff investigations. Officials in Los Angeles say the Greenwell and SpongeBob cases were the most significant among them. SpongeBob, aka Antonio Cardenas, is in jail awaiting trial on seven counts of production and distribution of child pornography and aggravated sexual abuse of a child; he has pleaded not guilty.
Mize concedes that repeated viewing of sexual molestation of children exacts a psychological toll.
"You reach a certain level of desensitization," he explains, "but then inevitably I'll feel it physically when I come back to reality. You have to take breaks. We're all very dedicated, but sometimes too much dedication can be harmful."
His marathon sessions with the camping videos prompted protests on the home front. "My family said I was obsessed," he admits.
That said, he adds, "Nothing is as rewarding as knowing you're making a difference in protecting children."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis charged Greenwell with five counts of producing child pornography. He entered a plea of not guilty and, having been denied bail, was sent to the Crawford County Jail to await his trial.
Employees at the Aerofil Technology manufacturing plant in Sullivan say they had no inkling of their former co-worker's secret criminal obsession. He was always convivial, they say, quick to crack a joke or help out a colleague in a pinch.
"We were all shocked," says a co-worker who declined to give his name. "He wasn't the brightest guy in the world. But he was dependable and outgoing. He wasn't quiet or shy."
Greenwell had no close friends outside of work, says Chuck Subke, the lead detective in the Franklin County Sheriff's Department. His social interactions were confined to the children he aimed to molest, their mothers and his fellow pedophiles. The detective adds that Greenwell elected to work the overnight shift specifically because it gave him access to children during the day.
According to the FBI, Greenwell spent the past two decades leading something of a nomadic life, bouncing between Pulaski, Phelps and Franklin counties in Missouri, molesting young victims all the while.
Agents say he worked at a retirement community near Rolla and for Boys & Girls Town of Missouri. When he moved to Sullivan, they say, he attempted to launch his own photography business.
He had moved into the cottage in Miramiguoa only months before his arrest and had no prior criminal record.
Following his indictment, Greenwell underwent a psychological evaluation, parts of which are cited in a court document filed by federal prosecutor Carrie Costantin. He spoke of a troubled past and said he'd been sexually molested as a child. When he was 15, he said, he molested two step-cousins, ages 8 and 10. He'd been trading child pornography since 1995.
Other excerpts from the evaluation suggest Greenwell initially expressed little remorse.
He blamed his relationships with the boys' mothers: "If I would have walked away from these types of women, I wouldn't be in the situation that I am."
He blamed the victims: One was a "horn dog and sex fiend," another was "loose with his zipper."
He blamed the investigators: "The way they showed pictures of the children around to the schools just doesn't seem right to me. That's finally how they ended up learning who I was. Does it seem right to you?"
He blamed Lost Boy members: "I know how not to get caught, it's other people who compromised me, and that sucks. [...S]eems like this is something that could have been avoided if people just would have left me alone."
Greenwell's court-appointed attorney is JoAnn Trog, a partner at a small St. Louis practice. Trog says her client declined to be interviewed for this story.
The counselor who evaluated Greenwell noted that the defendant got a "thrill" out of targeting victims through their mothers. Costantin concurs, quoting from a chat-room transcript that Mize lifted from Greenwell's computer.
"At one point," says Costantin, "Greenwell says to his friend, 'If the mothers only knew they were dropping their kids off with boylovers.' "
Last June 22, the day his trial was to begin, Greenwell shaved off his beard. Costantin says she suspects it was an attempt to distance himself from the man in the photographs submitted as evidence by the prosecution.
In the end it wouldn't matter. All five victims whose allegations were detailed in Greenwell's indictment were prepared to take the witness stand. Just before the jury was to be selected, the defendant confessed.
He admitted to photographing the genitalia of all five boys and to performing various sexual acts on all of them between 2003 and 2009. Four were under the age of 12 when the abuse began. Costantin says the youngest was 4.
On October 5 Greenwell was brought back to court for his sentencing hearing, facing 15 to 30 years on each of the five counts. The families of two of his victims were in attendance.
Greenwell's mother, brother and grandparents, as well as a family friend, had written letters in support of the defendant, hoping for leniency. Defense attorney Trog asked U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Shaw for compassion.
"[W]hat we have here is a human being, a man who is flawed," she said. "What earthly good does it do to just throw away the key and the government continue to pay money? Let's get this man the ability to come back out and to do something positive, to be a positive member of the community."
Trog suggested a sentence of 20 years per count, to run concurrently.
Offered the chance to speak, Greenwell apologized to the court and took responsibility for his actions. He said he'd never adequately dealt with issues that had dogged him nearly all his life. "I sought help from the wrong places from the wrong people, and I hung around some bad influences and made some very bad decisions," he said.
"I wish I could change it," he continued. "I wish I could go back and never made these mistakes. But if we didn't make mistakes, Your Honor, we wouldn't be human. And I've made some big ones and this is the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life. But I do know that I can change. And I just pray that your sentence will allow me that change."
When it was Costantin's turn to address the court, she drew a distinction between Greenwell and all of the other pedophiles she'd prosecuted.
"We've discussed often the overuse of the word 'predator,' how it's thrown around in the media," Costantin stated. "But, Your Honor, the defendant is a predator. He sought out women with — single women with children. He sought them out on the Internet and at work. He befriended them. He dated them. He got them to trust him with their children, and then he molested those children. He fondled their genitals. Anal sex with one child. Oral sex with others. He photographed that. And then he traded those photographs with other pedophiles of the Lost Boys [sic] pedophile group.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"In the scheme of sex offenders," Costantin argued, "it really doesn't get much worse than this."
Finally, Judge Shaw had his say. "Mr. Greenwell, you, as well as your attorney, Ms. Trog, say you are a good person. You may be a good person in some ways, but you are a very bad person in others, an extremely bad person. You have taken advantage of some of the most vulnerable people that exist: children. You've shattered their lives. If you're going to be a useful citizen, you're going to have to be a useful citizen in the penitentiary, because you're going to be there for the rest of your life, and that's just the way that is."
Shaw sentenced Greenwell to 20 years on each count, to run consecutively.
Two weeks later Trog appealed the 100-year term on Greenwell's behalf. She contends that the federal government has enacted flawed sentencing guidelines, and that the sentence the trial court imposed was unreasonable and excessive in light of her client's background and the nature of his offenses.