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In July, authorities arrested four men they say had online discussions with Arnett about kidnapping and eating children. Those arrested included Ronald Brown, a children’s puppeteer from Largo, Fla. (A YouTube video shows Brown during an appearance on a Christian TV kids show in the 1980s. In the video, he tells a child puppet that he did the right thing by refusing to look at "dirty pictures" some other youngsters tried to show him.)
In excerpts of an online chat between Arnett and Brown from 2011, the two men appear to be discussing their desire to cook a child for Easter.
"he would make a fine Easter feast," Arnett says.
"yes, his thighs and butt cheeks would be fantastic for Easter," Brown responds.
A lawyer for Arnett would not comment on the allegations. Brown’s lawyer did not return calls.
Prosecutors said Brown acknowledged his online conversations but said that it was all a fantasy and that he would never hurt anyone.
"Obviously the discussions regarding their claims of cannibalism are disturbing and a concern to our agency," said ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein. He said agents are following all leads "to make sure these individuals didn’t follow through on any of their claims."
To find the young victims, investigators carefully studied thousands of photos, read hours of Internet chats and worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They also employed some forensic wizardry.
After finding a video on Diduca’s computer of a bound, 2-year-old boy being raped, investigators enhanced the images of furniture and carpet and determined the attack took place in a motel room in Bakersfield, Calif.
Then they pinpointed the date by way of a TV that was playing in the background in the video, figuring out exactly when a particular episode of "Family Matters" aired along with a certain Pepperidge Farms commercial.
A man from Black Forest, Colo., was arrested and is awaiting trial.
Similarly, in the Arnett case, investigators discovered that a water bottle in one of the photographs carried the name of a swim and scuba center in Overland Park, Kan. With the help of teachers at an elementary school, they identified three children shown in the photographs, including the toddler posed in the roasting pan.
The mother of one of the boys said she initially did not believe the allegations against Arnett, a family friend for about 15 years. She said her son, now 7, and several nephews often spent weekends at Arnett’s home four or five years ago.
"Well, when we first got the phone call, we thought there’s no way. You guys got the wrong guy," she said. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual abuse or their families.
But then investigators showed her photos Arnett had allegedly taken of her son with a shirt and no pants.
"Regret? For sending my son with a sick-minded guy, that’s the only regret I have. I had no idea," she said. "It’s depressing."
For the agents working on the case, the leads never seem to end.
Last week, they arrested another Massachusetts man after finding child pornography and photos of what appeared to be dead children on his computer. He allegedly had online chats with Arnett and Brown.
More arrests are expected.Next Page >
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