Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

Federal agents again search home of Largo puppeteer and child porn suspect

LARGO — Federal investigators returned Thursday night to once again search the home of professional puppeteer and child pornography suspect Ronald William Brown, but they wouldn't say why.

Roughly a dozen officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Largo Police Department were searching the mobile home of the 57-year-old man who's charged with possessing child pornography and conspiring to kidnap a child.

"It's not over yet. It's an ongoing investigation that's evolving," said Homeland Security spokesman Nestor Yglesias, who was on the scene at the Whispering Pines mobile home park.

He wouldn't say what the agents were looking for. As neighbors gathered to watch, a forensics analyst with the Sheriff's Office removed three bags of evidence from the mobile home, then returned inside with a stack of bags to gather more.

"I can confirm we have found more evidence," said Guillermo Cancio, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Tampa.

Later in the night, agents emptied Brown's tool shed and took photographs of the items they removed.

Federal agents had previously searched Brown's home and computer. They reported finding lewd images of children bound and gagged, a flier for a missing child and "images of children that appear to be deceased."

Authorities say Brown had been corresponding online with Kansas resident Michael Arnett about murdering and eating children. Arnett also faces child pornography charges, and federal agents continue to investigate claims Arnett made to Brown that he had cannibalized a child.

"Due to the disturbing and troubling allegations involving Ronald William Brown, Homeland Security Investigations special agents are executing a second federal search warrant at his residence in Largo," Yglesias said in a statement released Thursday. "HSI continues to investigate these claims regarding cannibalism and child exploitation."

One of Brown's neighbors in the mobile home park, Meg Gambill, has been outraged to hear the accusations against him.

"Whenever you move someplace, you're never guaranteed that it's safe," she said. "But really? This is beyond not safe. This is sick and twisted."

Also on Thursday, a California man appeared in federal court after being arrested in connection with the far-reaching case.

Homeland Security officials said Jason Scarcello, 42, of Anderson, Calif., had also been chatting online with Arnett. From August 2010 to March 2012, the two discussed the abduction, murder, torture and cannibalism of children, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case.

Scarcello was arrested Wednesday at his home, where investigators reported finding computers containing sexually explicit images and videos of children.

"The images and other details we've uncovered during the course of this far-reaching probe are, without question, some of the most profoundly disturbing evidence we've ever encountered in a child sexual exploitation case," Clark Settles, special agent in charge for Homeland Security in San Francisco, said in a statement. "We are still aggressively investigating whether any of the suspects ever actually acted on their unspeakable dialogues."

Yglesias said federal agents also have made an arrest in New Jersey tied to this investigation.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

   
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