Florida puppeteer accused in child porn case
- NEW: A Facebook page mentions a Christian puppet show, mentoring a boy
- He faces charges of conspiring to kidnap a child
- Ronald William Brown is also accused of possessing child pornography
- The 57-year-old tells investigators he “would never hurt anyone”
(CNN) — On his website, Ronald William Brown posed with puppets, boasted about birthday party performances and offered workshops for school groups.
Now the 57-year-old Florida man is behind bars, facing federal charges of conspiring to kidnap a child and possessing child pornography.
Authorities accuse the puppeteer of having graphic discussions online about abusing, kidnapping, killing and eating children, according to court documents.
He was arrested in Largo, Florida, last week and appeared in federal court Tuesday.
A 29-page criminal complaint filed in federal court includes transcripts of several online chats and details of what investigators found when they searched Brown’s home.
A CD found in his bedroom dresser’s sock drawer included child pornography, images of what appear to be deceased children and a missing-child flier, according to the complaint.
Brown told investigators he had discussed kidnapping, killing and eating a boy from his church but said “it was just a fantasy and he could never and would never hurt anyone,” the complaint said.
Brown maintains he is innocent, attorney Eric Kuske told reporters Tuesday.
“It’s his contention right now that he didn’t do this, he’s not involved with this. That there’s been some presumptions and assumptions made on what transpired. … He wouldn’t do something like this. He’s got no criminal record,” Kuske said, according to CNN affiliate WFLA.
During a 1998 traffic stop, a sheriff’s deputy spotted boys’ underwear between front seats in the vehicle Brown was driving, according to records from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Brown told the deputy he used the boys’ underwear for puppet shows, “dressing puppets in underwear,” an incident report said.
Brown told investigators that he helps out in the children’s area of his church, and that a group of children from his neighborhood come to his house every Wednesday for pizza before he gives them a ride in a church van, the complaint said.
Brown “would never associate or speak to any adults” in the mobile home park where he lived, resident Laura Jane Schate told CNN affiliate Bay News 9.
But children were eager to talk with Brown, neighbors said.
“They’d come with their bikes and their skateboards, and they’d hang out, waiting for him to come home,” neighbor Stacy Gaughan told CNN affiliate WFTS.
Many in the neighborhood, disgusted by reports of what investigators allegedly uncovered, are “wondering whether he did this here,” she told CNN affiliate Bay News 9.
A Facebook page that appears to belong to Brown says he “usually (performs) weekly in schools, malls, civic clubs, birthday parties, and museums.”
One post talks of mentoring a young boy. Another describes work on a Christian television puppet show.
Brown’s arrest Friday was the latest step in a federal investigation connected with other child pornography arrests, including the May arrest of a Kansas City man accused of producing child pornography, authorities said.