In 2009, an international child pornography network was uncovered when Robert Diduca, a hotel manager from Milford, mistakenly sent a photograph of an abused 18-month-old boy to federal investigators. Over the course of the next couple of years, investigators would identify at least 140 exploited children and arrest numerous men involved in the network. “Each new predator we put behind bars leads us to yet another person attempting to exploit children,” said the lead investigator. 1
One of those men was British born Geoffrey Portway.
In August of 2012, Portway was arrested under child pornography charges. Agents and state troopers investigating the aforementioned international child pornography network searched his home and seized computers that contained numerous images of child pornography and deceased children. There were over 4,500 trades of child sexual abuse images between Portway and other men. He was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
Following his arrest, Portway pleaded not-guilty to all of the charges. However, it would soon be revealed that when Portway’s home in Worcester, Massachusetts, had been searched, investigators found a sound-proofed dungeon as well as a child-sized homemade coffin, a steel cage, a steel-topped table, butcher kits and restraints. These items had all been hidden behind two locked doors in his basement which had been lined with soundproofing tiles. They had also found a plethora of knives, handcuffs, sex toys and castration tools as well as two large freezers.
A forensic examination of his computer revealed that he had been in contact with other men involved in the international child pornography network in which they discussed plans to abduct, rape, murder and cannibalize children. These chats were accompanied with the men sharing photographs and names of children that they personally knew who could potentially become a target for their sadistic plans.
The following year, Portway appeared in court and changed his plea from not-guilty to guilty. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Portway pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime of violence (kidnapping a child) and distribution and possession of child pornography.2
During the sentencing phase, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf presented photographs of the dungeon and said that the chats recovered from Portway’s computer showed that he had solicited people for help to kidnap a child with the intent of raping, killing and eating the child. She refuted the claims from Portway’s defence lawyer that he was simply fantasizing and didn’t actually intent to carry out his plan. She pointed out that Portway had assembled everything he needed to carry out the plan, except for the child. In one chat, he had written: “I want to eat… the two boys you will bring me. Perhaps not today, but it will happen. That is all I live for… I am serious. It is the only thing that gets me up in the morning.”3
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Hillman would side with the prosecution and sentence Portway to 27 years in prison. He said that he must serve his full sentence before being sent back to the United Kingdom.
The sting on the child pornography network was referred to as “Operation Holitna.” It would also lead to Ronald Brown, a puppeteer from Florida who worked at a local church.
Brown lived alone in a mobile home park in Largo and was well-known in the neighborhood for his friendly demeanor. He often served pizza to children in the neighborhood and then drive them to Gulf Coast Church where he was an active congregant. He had also appeared on the Christian Television Network kids show, Joy Junction, where his puppet would ironically warn children about the dangers of the world.
Unbeknownst to his neighbours, however, Brown was harbouring a disturbing secret. He was an active member of the child pornography network and would share sexual abuse photographs as well as photographs of mutilated, injured and dead children. In chats with other members, Brown shared his fantasises of carving and cooking the body part of a young boy in his church: “I imagine him wiggling and then going still,” he wrote to one man.
He suggested to several men that they kidnap children from his church and on one occasion, he sent a photograph of one young boy with lines drawn on him to identify different cuts of meat. According to the affidavit, Brown’s extensive chat log was grotesque, even by the jaded standards of child abuse investigators.
When Brown’s home was searched during the sting, investigators found photographs of children bound and gagged, a flyer for a missing child and images of deceased children. In a number of the chats, Brown spoke about “snuffing” children as young as two and went into gruesome detail about different ways he could kill and eat children.4
Brown would plead guilty to possessing and receiving child pornography. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervision following his release and would be required to register as a sex offender and be restricted from access to areas frequented by children.5
- The Boston Globe, 1 August, 2012 – “Second Man in Mass. Is Held in Child Porn”
- The Boston Globe, 7 May, 2013 – “Man Admits to Soliciting Kidnapping”
- The Bismarck Tribune, 18 September, 2013 – “Suspect in Child Porn Case Gets Nearly 27 Years”
- Tampa Bay Times, 25 July, 2012 – “Every Parents Nightmare”
- Tampa Bay Times, 30 July, 2013 – “Largo Puppeteer Who Wanted to Cannibalize Boys”