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Sex case may lead to more charges

The 29-year-old man accused Tuesday of having sexual contact with two teenage girls _ and trying to meet up with a third _ may soon face an additional charge of transmitting harmful material to a minor, authorities said Thursday.

They also said more victims are expected to come forward.

"We'd be surprised if there aren't any more," said Detective Eric Barnhart of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

Joshua Adam Science, of 11441 W Priest Lane in Homosassa, "obviously has a track record" of stalking teenage girls and using the Internet to lure them, Barnhart said. "He stays pretty consistent with that age group."

Science remained at the Citrus County jail late Thursday. He was being held without bail.

Science was charged with sexual battery while armed in connection with a January incident that took place in a bathroom at Enchanted Moments Preschool, which is owned by Science's parents, an arrest record showed.

In that case, Science is accused of holding a knife with a 3-inch blade while fondling a 16-year-old Homosassa girl who then performed oral sex, the report showed. Science told authorities the encounter was consensual and denied wielding a knife, but said he carries one at all times.

Science also was charged with sexual battery after authorities said he had sex with a 15-year-old girl at the girl's residence in February. The sex was consensual, but the girl's age makes the act illegal. While Science denied having sex with the girl, he acknowledged knowing her age and said the girl's parents approved of the relationship.

In addition, Science has been charged with luring a child to engage in sexual activity and transmitting harmful material to a minor. Earlier this week, he conducted a sexually charged chat on the Internet and sent a photograph of his penis to a person he believed was a 14-year-old girl from Crystal River, an arrest report said. He actually was corresponding with sheriff's Detective Michael Baute and the girl's mother.

Officials are now investigating whether Science also sent a picture of his penis to the 15-year-old. Computer technicians at the Sheriff's Office are searching for the picture in a computer hard drive, which the girl's mother turned over to officials. If a picture is found, Science may face another charge of transmitting harmful material to a minor, Barnhart said.

Science met the three girls at the same place, Neffer's Bowling in Homosassa, detectives said.

Baute was investigating the computer case Tuesday while Barnhart was investigating the two other cases. Only later in the day did they realize they had targeted the same suspect.

Here's how the detectives described what happened:

On Monday, Barnhart said he was asked to follow up on a March 7 report that Lecanto High School school resource officer, Deputy Brian Fagan, had filed. The 15-year-old girl had approached Fagan and told him she had sex with a 29-year-old man.

Barnhart went to the school on Tuesday to interview the girl, who described her encounter with Science to him.

After the interview, Fagan told Barnhart another girl, the 16-year-old who is also a Lecanto student, came forward. Barnhart interviewed this girl, who, like the 15-year-old, identified Science by name. The detective also talked to the 16-year-old's teenage girlfriend, who went with her to the day care when the sexual encounter allegedly took place. Barnhart returned to the Sheriff's Office in Inverness, where he made small talk with Baute.

"Who's your suspect?" Barnhart recalled Baute asking.

After Barnhart told him, Baute said, "Holy cow, that's my suspect."

"No way."

"Yes way."

The two detectives decided to work together from that point on.

Baute already had arranged for the 14-year-old girl to call Science, with authorities present, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The girl told Science she would meet him at Bicentennial Park in Crystal River shortly before 7 p.m. that night.

She didn't show up. Instead, Barnhart, Baute and Fagan did in unmarked cars. Science was interviewed at the Sheriff's Office substation in Crystal River and then arrested.

Science's father, Ted, resigned from the Citrus County school system in 1995 when allegations surfaced that he inappropriately wrote letters to and spoke with a Lecanto Middle School student.

Ted Science and his wife, Patricia, now own Enchanted Moments Preschool, where Joshua Science is accused of taking the 16-year-old girl in January. When reached by telephone Thursday, an employee at Enchanted Moments declined comment.

_ Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or sgonzalessptimes.com.

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