Police reveal details of alleged pedophile
By Tamsin McMahon
Local News - Saturday, August 14, 2004 @ 07:00
Kingston Police have released photographs and e-mail addresses of a Pennsylvania man accused of crossing the border to have sex with a 14-year-old Kingston girl he met on the Internet.
Officers hope that by releasing the images and information on Steven Edward Kline, 45, they can prompt any other victims to come forward.
On Thursday, a U.S. federal grand jury indicted Kline of Bellefonte, Pa., on four charges of crossing state and international borders to take illicit photos and have sex with at least a dozen underage girls police say he met on the Internet.
Kline allegedly drove to Kingston on Jan. 31 and stayed at a west-end motel, where police say he had arranged to meet the Kingston teen.
Kingston Police allege the man spent at least one night in the city, had sex with the girl and took photos of her.
Although they aren’t aware of any contact between the man and other local girls, police say there are several hours of his time that can’t be accounted for, which they suspect might have been spent with other victims.
“Given his way of operating – he’s been doing this for years – I’d be very surprised if he travelled all the way to Kingston from Pennsylvania to see one person,” said Kingston Police Det.-Const. Stephanie Morgan.
“My guess is he saw several.”
Morgan said the man would hang out in Internet chat rooms meant for teens, where he would befriend young girls.
He used several e-mail addresses or aliases to meet girls, including:
The man would admit that he was an older man and give them advice about their problems, acting as a sort of father figure to vulnerable teens, police said.
“He’d gain their trust by saying, ‘I’m an older person, I’m here for you, I’ve been through the same things you’ve been through,’ ” Morgan said.
“He would be a real friend and someone they could look up to. Then it would turn sexual.”
The man would sometimes send the girls illicit photos of himself and ask for pictures of the girls in return. He would reassure them he’d done the same with many girls who were his friends.
“It would even come to the point where he’d tell them he loved them and that he was in love with them,” Morgan said.
When interviewed by authorities in Kingston and the United States, many of the alleged victims said they loved him back.
“In most cases, the young girls felt they were in love,” Morgan said. “For some of them it was their first love.”
The Kingston teen chatted with the man daily for several months – sometimes several times a day, Morgan said.
During her first interview with police, she was scared and very protective of the man.
“She felt she didn’t want him to get in any trouble and felt they had a relationship and she valued it,” Morgan said. “As time went on, I think she realized the seriousness of what was going on.”
The girl eventually opened up and gave police enough information to help them lay charges.
Police first heard of the relationship on Feb. 10 after the girl’s mother found illicit e-mails and images from the man on her family computer.
With just e-mail addresses to go on, Morgan contacted state police in Pennsylvania to see if they knew of a suspect. They eventually confirmed the suspect’s name through receipts from the Kingston motel where the man had stayed.
U.S. authorities were already investigating Kline for alleged sexual contact with several girls 14 years old or younger.
Kline was arrested April 27 by state police in Bloomsburg, Pa., and charged with raping a 14-year-old Bloomsburg girl police say he met on the Internet.
Police found a MapQuest map in the suspect’s car that led them to the girl’s Kingston address.
A state trooper called Kingston Police and Morgan was able to link the address to her file on the girl’s report.
Morgan also viewed more than 90,000 images from the girl’s computer and found several that were linked to images found on the suspect’s computer in Bellefonte, Pa.
The FBI became involved because Kline allegedly crossed state and international borders, both in person and over the Internet, to produce child pornography and have sex with minors.
Police say he has alleged victims in New York, Washington, Iowa and Illinois.
If convicted of the four federal charges, Kline could face up to 110 years in prison and a $1-million fine.
Along with the federal charges, Kline faces state charges in three jurisdictions in Pennsylvania, said Cpl. Fred Caldwell of Rockview State Police in Bellefonte, Pa., where Kline lived and worked for Tire Town, an autoshop.
Kline is divorced and has stepchildren from his previous marriage,
Bellefonte police raided Kline’s home in the quiet, middle-class neighbourhood at the request of Bloomsburg authorities. They seized phone records and hundreds of CD-ROMs and floppy disks.
Bellefonte police appealed to any other victims to come forward. Two local women did, Caldwell said, alleging Kline had sexual relationships with them from the time they were six until age 14.
Kline was eventually charged with more than 1,400 counts of sex-related charges that included statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.
Caldwell said Kline is alleged to have abused the girls, now 20 and 22, at least once a week for years, which accounted for the huge number of charges.
“It started out just touching and fondling and it opened up into oral sex and intercourse,” he said.
Caldwell wouldn’t say how police believe Kline knew the girls, but said it wasn’t related to the Internet.
Kline is being held in custody on $1.1-million bail with a trial set for the fall.
The charges Kline faces are some of the worst allegations of sexual abuse Bellefonte police have seen, Caldwell said.
Cases of people scouring North America for potential victims may seem rare, but Kingston Police’s Morgan said using the Internet to help commit sex crimes is “extremely common.”
She couldn’t say how many of her cases with the sexual assault unit involved the Internet, but said it’s on the increase.
Over the past few months, Kingston Police have been more closely tracking crimes with a cyber element.
The Internet provides a cloak of anonymity that allows predators to pose as young girls – even sending fake pictures to teens they meet online to gain their trust.
“You can be anybody that you want to when you go on the Internet,” Morgan said. “There are people posing as young kids, there are [older] people hanging out in teen chat rooms. It happens all the time.”
Parents should trust their children, she said. But at the same time, they should be aware that children and teens can be naive and vulnerable to experienced predators who have been trolling the Internet for years.