Molester's Diaries Detail 30 Years of Alleged Crimes
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller has been called the nation's most prolific child molester. Police in San Jose, California, came to that conclusion after they read his diaries. Schwartzmiller is a 64-year-old drywall contractor and he likes to write. The stories he's told could send him to prison for a very long time. Yesterday, Schwartzmiller made a brief court appearance, and NPR's Richard Gonzales was there.
RICHARD GONZALES reporting:
Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller appeared disheveled but otherwise jovial as he smiled and whispered into his attorney's ear. Schwartzmiller faces seven counts of molesting two 12-year-old cousins. After a brief hearing in the San Jose courtroom, his public defender, Melinda Hall, says she needs more time to examine the evidence and hopes to move Schwartzmiller's case to another county.
Ms. MELINDA HALL (Schwartzmiller's Public Defender): Definitely considering a change of venue.
Unidentified Man: Why, exactly?
Ms. HALL: Because of the press that this case is getting. It would be very difficult for him to receive a fair trial.
GONZALES: Santa Clara County prosecutors are also worried about pretrial publicity. It started right after San Jose police arrested Schwartzmiller last month and revealed a staggering find: seven spiral-bound notebooks listing more than 30,000 sex acts with young boys. Police believe some of the incidents were real while others were imagined. They also say the found a lengthy memoir in which Schwartzmiller writes in detail about his 30 years as a child molester. But prosecutor Steven Fein says there's still a lot for authorities to process.
Mr. STEVEN FEIN (Prosecutor): We're still going through stuff, we're still providing stuff to the defense. Everybody's trying to be very thorough. And this is not unusual to have this sort of delay in a case like this, a case this complex.
GONZALES: Investigators are piecing together a timeline of sexual assaults that date back to 1970, when Schwartzmiller first confessed to molesting a 16-year-old boy in Alaska. In a pattern that would repeat itself over the years, Schwartzmiller received a suspended sentence and eventually jumped probation. He wandered through the Western states, befriending families, molesting boys and otherwise evading the law by using a series of aliases. In the mid-'70s, Schwartzmiller was in a small Idaho town passing himself off as Doc Lewis. The locals assumed he was a psychologist or a psychiatrist, says James Kevan, who helped Schwartzmiller coach a boy's football team.
Mr. JAMES KEVAN (Former Friend of Schwartzmiller): I mean, I always considered myself as a redneck. I figured you could spot a pervert a mile away, and this guy just moved right in and didn't nobody even know nothing. Didn't even suspect anything.
GONZALES: But then Schwartzmiller was charged with molesting an Idaho boy. He fled to Brazil, where he lived for a while and learned Portuguese. Eventually he was caught and extradited back to Idaho. Schwartzmiller was tried, convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison, but after just two years, his conviction was overturned and Schwartzmiller was free. He molested another child. Schwartzmiller was caught, tried, and convicted a second time. This time he spent six years in prison, where he schooled himself in the law and became an advocate for other prisoners. James Kevan, his old friend from Idaho, says Schwartzmiller was persuasive.
Mr. KEVAN: He was teaching this other guy about--teaching him Portuguese. And they were writing letters back and forth in Portuguese and driving the jailers nuts 'cause they couldn't tell what they were writing. And so even across the aisles and through the bars, he could influence somebody.
GONZALES: Steve Clark, a former Santa Clara County prosecutor who is familiar with the case, likens Schwartzmiller to an infamous villain.
Mr. STEVE CLARK (Santa Clara County Prosecutor): Schwartzmiller is really--you know, could be considered the Hannibal Lecter of the child molesters. I mean, he's--all outward appearances, seems like a nice person and gives gifts, things like that, genuinely seems interested in people, and then all of a sudden he's got this side of him that the whole reason he's doing that is for the purpose of harming young boys.
GONZALES: In spite of his history, Schwartzmiller never once registered as a sex offender, allowing him to move around from town to town without raising local concerns. But as San Jose police Lieutenant Scott Cornfield puts it, `This time we've got him. He's not going anywhere.' Richard Gonzales, NPR News.
BRAND: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.