SEMINOLE — A deputy checking out a man loitering Monday in the Seminole Middle School parking lot made a shocking discovery on the first day of school:
The 27-year-old St. Petersburg man had "numerous photos of naked minor females" on his cell phone and laptop, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
He also had a police scanner, the agency said, and had aimed his van so that it faced Seminole High School across the street.
Those revelations, according to the Sheriff's Office, culminated in the arrest of Matthew James White on charges that he engaged in sex acts with a 16-year-old girl — who was included in the naked photos.
Now investigators from the crimes against children unit are trying to answer these and other questions: Who are the other girls in the photos? Who took the photos? And what was he doing at the school?
"We haven't been able to confirm why specifically he was there," said sheriff's spokesman Cecilia Barreda. "But it became concerning to us that he was there."
The Sheriff's Office also is asking for the public's help to learn more about White and the girls in those photos.
"We're asking anyone that may have information about the other victims, who are themselves a victim, or knows anything that can help to contact us," Barreda said.
Detectives have not yet found any link between White and the middle and high schools. But staffers at Seminole Middle on Monday grew suspicious of the van parked at the campus at 8701 131st St. N. A school resource officer went to investigate at 2:30 p.m. The high school had already been dismissed at 1:50 p.m.
The agency said White told the deputy several stories: that he was there to pick up a cousin; that he was a bored paramedic; that he was just listening to his scanner. None was true, deputies said.
"He became very nervous," Barreda said. "Then he admitted that he had photographs of young girls on his cell phone."
He was arrested on charges of trespassing and loitering on school grounds. The crimes against children unit was called in. Investigators found the naked photos on his cell phone and found more on his laptop, according to the Sheriff's Office.
They identified one of the victims as a 16-year-old girl who knows White, deputies said.
Detectives interviewed that teen and then spoke to White on Tuesday at the jail. That's when allegations that he engaged in sex acts with the teenager were revealed, according to the Sheriff's Office. New charges were added Tuesday: one count of lewd and lascivious battery and two counts of sexual performance by a child.
White of 6048 Fifth Ave. S was being held Tuesday in the Pinellas jail in lieu of $40,000 bail. According to records, this is his first arrest in Florida.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.