Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Largo puppeteer who wanted to cannibalize boys is sentenced to 20 years

TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced a Largo church puppeteer who wrote online about sexually torturing and eating children to 20 years in prison Monday, punctuating a criminal case whose unsettling details raised difficult questions about free speech and due process.

Ronald William Brown, a 58-year-old professional puppeteer who lived at the Whispering Pines mobile-home park, was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervision following his release. He will be required to register as a sex offender and be restricted from access to areas frequented by children, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore ruled.

Brown had only pleaded guilty to possessing and receiving child pornography and was never charged with doing direct physical harm to anyone. But Whittemore agreed with prosecutors that the unusual circumstances of his case warranted an upward departure from the prison term of 6.5 to 8 years suggested under federal sentencing guidelines.

In addition to receiving pornography, federal agents found that Brown had engaged in protracted online discussions with other child-cannibalism enthusiasts about kidnapping, killing, cooking and eating children, including a specific boy at his church in Largo.

Prosecutors introduced into evidence a photograph of the boy that Brown had labeled in the style of a butcher's diagram, with different parts of his body labeled as "steaks" and "shanks."

"Perverted is not a strong enough word, Mr. Brown, to describe what you've been engaged in," Whittemore said Monday. "Depraved isn't strong enough. … All the adjectives seem inadequate."

Brown's attorneys had argued for leniency in sentencing, noting that Brown had no criminal record and had spent decades of his adult life working around children without acting on the gruesome impulses he professed.

"He lives in a fantasy world," Eric Kuske Leanza, Brown's Tampa-based attorney, told the judge Monday. Leanza said he was being placed in the difficult position of defending thoughts his client had never translated to actions. "I can't defend things that never occurred," he said.

Brown's puppet shows were well known in Pinellas County, where he worked with various community groups. He once had a regular job performing with a ventriloquist's dummy named Marty on a Christian Television Network children's show called Joy Junction.

Prosecutors argued that Brown's was not a garden-variety pornography case. Authorities say he had multiple images of dead children and children in bondage in his computer files. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of possessing or receiving child pornography in March.

"Mr. Brown's interest is not just in children," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kaiser said. "It's in dead children, which is fairly unusual, I think." Kaiser said Brown had even gotten in touch with a local funeral home seeking work so that he could be around corpses. Brown had also bragged in one chat about molesting a boy in a pool, Kaiser said.

Documents filed last week by prosecutors also assert handwritten journals found in Brown's home show he had "a long pattern and history of obsessing about individual boys" as far back as 1979, some of whom he knew through his "puppet ministry" at Pinellas County churches.

In 1993, the journals show, Brown became "obsessed" with a boy he knew through his puppet work and "repeatedly drove past the Dunedin Middle School at 4 p.m. hoping to see" him. He indicated in the journals that he "liked" another boy but "got mad at him for losing interest in the puppets."

Kaiser said the patterns of infatuation, obsession and resentment in the journals were similar to those in a "teen's diary," but for the frequent references to puppets and Brown's musings about killing one of the boys who had drawn his attention.

"Protection of the public is the final and perhaps the most significant aspect of this proceeding," Whittemore said in explaining his ruling. In Brown's case, he added, "the risk is there that that obsession becomes something more than fantasy."

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

Comments
Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Fitzpatrick was intercepted on three consecutive passes in the first half to fall behind by 20 points.But the Bucs veteran quarterback rallied the Bucs to within a field goal with touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the second half.Unf...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

TAMPA — They couldn't stick the landing. The FitzMagic ran out.Monday night against the Steelers, Tony Dungy night, was supposed to be the coming-out party, a new beginning, the Bucs on national TV, showing America that 2-0 was not make believe...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

TAMPA — So this should be a fun week over at One Buc Place.Who's the quarterback?That question will be asked a few times this week.This question will be asked a few dozen times:Who should be the quarterback?The debate will rage on. We'll talk a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

TAMPA — Monday night belonged to Tony Dungy. The former Bucs coach was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dungy's first NFL team.If it seemed strange that an NFL club would honor a ma...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

ST. PETERSBURG — In an effort to line up their pitching staff for the postseason, the Yankees stole a page out of the Rays playbook Monday night. New York designated the game  a "bullpen day" and did it ever use its bullpen.RHP Jonathan Ho...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' postseason hopes, as unlikely as they had seemed, officially ended with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees, manager Kevin Cash speaking for many saying they should be proud of what they did.And that doesn't mean they do...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ second-half rally falls just short in 30-27 loss to Steelers

Bucs’ second-half rally falls just short in 30-27 loss to Steelers

TAMPA — Ryan Fitzpatrick's magic seemed to wear off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he had enough tricks to make it interesting.Fitzpatrick was intercepted on three consecutive passes in the first half to fall behind by 20 points.But the B...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 30-27 loss

Bucs-Steelers: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 30-27 loss

Here's a by-the-numbers look at the Bucs' 30-27 loss to the Steelers on Monday:3-9Bucs' record in games in which they inducted someone into their Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. They last won when they inducted quarterback Doug Williams on De...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Monday, September 24

Monday’s scoreboardVolleyballTampa Prep d. St. Petersburg Cath. 25-21, 25-5, 25-17
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

LAND O’LAKES — Samantha Keithley sent a series of disturbing text messages late Sunday, complaining about her husband to a longtime friend.“Kirk has lost his mind Kristin,” she wrote in one text to friend Kristin Kellin. &...
Updated: 6 hours ago