A Delaware County man rigged his bathroom with a hidden video camera to tape four children and at other times sexually assaulted eight children as young as 3 months, federal officials charged yesterday.
Some abuse went on for a decade, law enforcement officials said, and may involve more victims. Authorities said two women were accomplices, and one of them ran a baby-sitting service.
A yearlong investigation culminated yesterday when John Jackey Worman, 39, of Colwyn, was charged with producing and possessing child pornography, rape, and sexual assault. Police said they found a million photographs and thousands of videos on his computers.
The two women charged with multiple counts of producing and possessing child pornography are Concetta Jackson, 44, of Collingdale, and Dorothy Prawdzik, 43, of Drexel Hill. The videotaping and alleged attacks occurred in a home in Collingdale and a home in Colwyn.
Worman has been in Delaware County Jail since February 2006 on other child-abuse charges. The two women were arrested yesterday.
U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said it was the "most horrific case" of child exploitation he had seen. Along with the million photographs, Worman's computers contained "thousands" of videos that Worman produced of himself committing sexual acts on the children, Meehan said.
"The level of depravity in this case is so destructive to those children who have been victimized," Delaware County district Attorney G. Michael Green said.
Meehan said authorities had been able to identify 12 victims. He said he was not sure they would be able to identify all the children Worman allegedly victimized.
The victims "lived lives of horror for years," Meehan said.
Between 1997 and 2006, Worman sexually abused eight children, including five he forced to engage in sex, police said. He videotaped the assaults and downloaded the images into his computer.
Between 2003 and 2006, Worman installed a video camera in his bathroom wall and taped four children as they used the toilet, undressed and showered. Jackson knew about the camera and aided Worman in videotaping the children, authorities said. It was not specified at what address the bathroom was located.
Meehan said he did not know whether Worman or the two women tried to sell any of the images. That is still under investigation, he said.
Prawdzik and Jackson had an "intimate" relationship with Worman, Meehan said. Prawdzik posed the children in front of hidden cameras for Worman, undressing them and exposing their genitals, according to authorities.
Neighbors of the Collingdale home where baby-sitting took place reacted not with surprise but with relief upon hearing of the indictments.
Patty Zierle, a resident for 11 years, said she had long suspected wrongdoing two doors away from her rowhouse, "because I'm a mom and you can feel it."
Yet she never suspected the sort of conduct authorities have alleged.
Zierle and neighbors Ken Christian and his wife, Nancy, gasped when a reporter read from a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office that one sexual-abuse victim was three months old.
"Oh, Lord," Zierle said. "Oh, my God."
Zierle, a mother of three, said, "I knew enough not to let my kids play over there."
Others, however, even went so far as to let their children sleep over, said Ken Christian, who lives next to the house. It was those sleepovers that first made him suspicious because of the "sounds they would make at two in the morning, moaning and groaning."
Christian said in the last few years he often complained to police about seeing inappropriate touching of children outside the home- including rubbing their behinds - and hearing unsettling noises during the night. He said police advised him to keep a log book, which he did.
Other assaults allegedly occurred at a home in Colwyn.
A woman at the Colwyn home who identified herself as Worman's mother said she had no idea what her son was allegedly involved in until last year when he was arrested on child-abuse charges.
She said none of the children allegedly abused or photographed were ever in her house. "I didn't know it was this, I just thought it was pornography," she said.
Last night, she shouted at television news crews not to film her or her house. Later, she told a reporter she wanted to try to protect the identity of Worman's 12-year-old son. She said she learned of Worman's indictment on the Internet and did not have a chance to pick up her grandson and prepare him for the news. "What's it going to be like for him in school after this is on TV?" she said. She was also angry that authorities gave her address as her son's.
She said Worman had not lived there for any length of time during the 15 years she had lived in the house.
She said police investigators searched her house last year and removed her son's computer equipment, which she said he stored in a locked room in the basement.
According to court documents, the investigation dates to January 2006, when Delaware County Detective John Kelly and Molli Mullen, a caseworker from Children and Youth Services, met with a 19-year-old woman who said Worman had sexually abused her when she was between 10 and 15. She said Worman had also photographed her while she was naked and videotaped her while they were having sex.
When police searched the Colwyn house last year they confiscated computers, hard drives, digital cameras, a video camera, videos and photographs. Five of those photos were identified as of the 19-year-old alleged victim. The Delaware County agents gave Worman's computers to FBI agent Jennifer Coughlin, who specializes in child-pornography cases. She took them to a regional FBI lab for analysis, and, working with agents there, extracted more than one million images of children.
Police were also able to identify other victims in the photos recovered from computers and met with parents who identified their children in some of the images. In two cases, both involving 2-year-old girls, the parents told police they would leave their children with Jackson at the Collingdale house to baby-sit. They thought Worman was her husband. Police met with another 20-year-old alleged victim in February 2006 who reported she had been assaulted by Worman starting when she was 9.
According to the Delaware County District Attorney's Office, Worman is expected to be transferred to federal custody today. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.
Read the indictment in the Delaware County child pornography case via http://go.philly.com/pornindictmentEndText