Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Child sex suspect from New York caught, released and captured again in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — The first time police here encountered Jesse P. Sawyer, in late January, he was homeless and sleeping in an abandoned building on U.S. 19.

The last time — on Friday afternoon — police were arresting the 25-year-old New York man on federal charges of producing child pornography.

Under normal circumstances, Sawyer's story may have gone unnoticed by many in the Tampa Bay area. But for several hours Friday, his name and face were splashed across local TV screens and news websites as a drama unfolded.

That's because earlier in the day, a procedural delay had allowed Sawyer to slip through officers' fingers.

They detained Sawyer at about 10:54 p.m. Thursday after being told by New York authorities that he was at Calvary Chapel church at 8900 U.S. 19 N. Yet even though police saw that Sawyer had a federal warrant referencing the promotion of child sex, they did not have confirmation that the warrant was valid. They called the FBI to get it.

When that confirmation still hadn't come almost two hours later, police decided that Sawyer had to be released.

"Our policy says the person can be detained for a reasonable amount of time," said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Adam Geissenberger. "Of course, reasonable is subjective. Our shift commander deemed it a reasonable amount of time, though."

About six minutes later, at 12:46 a.m. Friday, the FBI verified the charges. It was unclear why it took so long for the verification to be made.

Police went back to the church. Sawyer was gone, and no one could find him.

As hours passed, accusations flew and finger-pointing ensued, as law enforcement agencies on opposite ends of the country put out their own versions of events while asking for the public's help in finding Sawyer, who appeared to have arrived in the Tampa Bay area just a few months ago.

New York authorities, who have been investigating Sawyer for months, were incredulous. Troy, N.Y., police Capt. John Cooney said an acquaintance of Sawyer's told police in January that she had found disturbing pictures of him with children. The images showed him engaging in sex acts with three girls, Cooney said.

None of the victims are over the age of 6, Cooney said. A federal warrant was issued March 18.

Geissenberger said Pinellas Park officers at first were not aware of all of the details of the New York case. Regardless, he said, officers always get confirmation of warrants.

Authorities aren't sure why Sawyer came to Florida. Records show that a police officer spotted him sleeping in the abandoned building on Jan. 27. At some point, he began attending Calvary Chapel and participating in its residential discipleship program. The church said it ran a background check, which came back clear.

Sawyer remained elusive until about 2 p.m. Friday, when Pinellas Park police got a cellphone number for him. They called, and Sawyer said he was still in the area.

Authorities found him walking through a strip mall parking lot in the 8700 block of 49th street N. A couple of hours later, he was in the Pinellas County Jail.

"What a great end result," Cooney said. "Procedural issues can be analyzed at a later time. Kudos to Pinellas Park."

Child sex suspect from New York caught, released and captured again in Pinellas Park 03/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 9:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.