A pedophile living abroad had told the LA investigators that a man who went by the screen name "Muddyfeet" was producing copious quantities of child pornography in Missouri. "Muddyfeet" also came up during the questioning of a Lost Boy suspect who attributed a large set of pornographic stills of young boys to a photographer who operated under that alias. A third clue, an archived chat-room exchange between a Lost Boy member and an outside acquaintance who went by the screen name Muddyfeet that was found on a computer the LA team seized as evidence, brought the picture into better focus: The file included an e-mail address, which the agents were able to trace to Franklin County and a man named Jeffrey Greenwell.

Though the information was tantalizing, Costantin knew better than to be optimistic. It would be difficult, she knew, to secure a search warrant, let alone prosecute anybody, with nothing to go on but an Internet alias, two addresses, a possible name and a handful of photos of unidentified boys being molested.

"In order to get a search warrant, we needed to identify a child,'" Costantin explains.

On October 23, 2009, federal and state authorities arrested Jeffrey Greenwell just outside his home in Miramiguoa Park and detained him at the Franklin County Jail.
On October 23, 2009, federal and state authorities arrested Jeffrey Greenwell just outside his home in Miramiguoa Park and detained him at the Franklin County Jail.
The Miramiguoa Park home where Greenwell lived prior to his arrest.
Jon Gitchoff
The Miramiguoa Park home where Greenwell lived prior to his arrest.

At the same time, she was fully cognizant of the urgency involved. Her LA counterparts were pursuing an ongoing child-porn enterprise and had good reason to presume that some of the men involved were actively molesting children. As Michael Osborn, the FBI agent who heads up the SAFE task force in LA, notes, "We knew there were hands-on victims out there that we had to ID as quickly as possible. We didn't have a six-month luxury. Every day counted."

The FBI assigned a St. Louis-based agent to track down the lead. For local assistance, the bureau turned to the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.

Lieutenant Chuck Subke, who runs the county sheriff's detective division, began by visiting the two addresses linked to Greenwell. One was vacant. The other, about the size of a single-wide mobile home, was tucked at the back end of Meramec State Park, a few hundred yards from the river.

Subke traced the license plates on the two cars he saw parked in front of the little house. Both were registered in Greenwell's name. It appeared he was living there alone.

Next Subke and the FBI agent visited several Franklin County elementary schools, where they asked each principal to go through the handful of photos of fully clothed boys they'd received from LA in search of familiar faces. On October 22, 2009, two weeks into a fruitless fishing expedition, they got their first nibble when a principal pointed out one of the boys in his school's hallway — a fourth grader.

The lawmen contacted the boy's mother, then flew in an FBI investigator from Detroit who specialized in questioning children and adolescents. The investigator, Catherine S. Connell, had spent the past year flying around the nation, interviewing the majority of the victims who'd emerged from the Lost Boy probe.

Speaking with children about molestation is tricky, as most infamously evidenced in the 1980s, by the McMartin Preschool case in California. That fiasco, which cost the U.S. government $15 million and jailed an innocent man for five years, was brought on by false testimony, embellished to the point of absurdity, that a therapist elicited from hundreds of children.

You don't set out to upset the children you interview, Connell explains, but you don't want them to suppress memories that by their nature are upsetting. Nor do you want to put words in their mouths. "You talk about the truth, and you test whether they can tell the difference between a truth and a lie."

Connell says that when broaching potentially traumatizing subjects with kids, she's careful to be both reassuring and skeptical.

"I try to reduce suggestibility and authority," she says, describing a technique based on guidelines adopted by the state of Michigan designed to prevent kids from fabricating stories. "The difference between what we do and what other investigators do is that we go in unbiased, seeking to test the hypothesis rather than confirm it. We use phrases like, 'If you don't know the answer, then tell me you don't know it.'"

While the St. Louis-based FBI agent watched a live video feed in a room nearby, Connell sat down one-on-one with the fourth grader. As soon as the boy told her that Jeffrey Greenwell had fondled his genitals and photographed the experience, the FBI agent phoned Subke.

"I said, 'I got it, Chuck, let's go,'" he recalls. (The agent consented to an on-the-record interview for this story on the condition that Riverfront Times not reveal his identity. The FBI's St. Louis division declined to share any details about the Greenwell case that might identify any of the victims or jeopardize future investigations.)

Subke, who had prepared for this eventuality by readying a search warrant, led his team into the woods.

The FBI agent also alerted Brian Mize, asking the decryption specialist to drive down from Clayton to lend his expertise in collecting evidence.

A mere 24 hours after the school principal pointed out the fourth grader, federal agents and Franklin County detectives reached Miramiguoa Park. When they saw Greenwell, a baldheaded man with a close-cropped beard, exit his house and drive away, the search team went in.

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