When federal investigators busted Jeffrey Greenwell outside St. Louis, they hit the kiddie-porn jackpot

The child-pornography probe in Missouri that led to the arrest of Jeffrey Greenwell began with a lead forwarded to St. Louis from Los Angeles, where a state and federal task force was in the process of dismantling Lost Boy, an online network of pedophiles who traded photos and videos via the Internet. Ultimately, the Greenwell investigation spun off into four additional cases in four different states.

Click here to return to Riverfront Times' chronicle of the Lost Boy investigation, "The Scooby-Doo Files"

In early 2010, Captain John Foster, a detective with the Yell County Sheriff's Department in northwest Arkansas, received a package of photos prepared by Brian Mize, a forensic investigator with the St. Louis Division of the FBI.

The images, which Mize had culled from the thousands he'd found stored on hard drives and other media seized from Greenwell's house, depicted various shots of four boys. Mize believed each of the boys had been sexually molested by a man named Evan Batton, a youth pastor at a Baptist church near the city of Dardanelle.

Foster immediately recognized the face of one of the children: "a cute little redheaded kid, wearing an army helmet," he recalls.

Later that same day, Foster drove to Batton's house armed with a search warrant and accompanied by a team that included an agent from the FBI's Little Rock Division.

When Batton answered the door, the lawmen could see that the pastor wasn't alone. There was a little boy in the house — another face Foster had seen in Mize's dossier.

Rather than face a jury trial, Batton agreed to plead guilty to one felony count for the rape of a seven-year-old boy. Now 29, he is serving a 30-year sentence in state prison. He did not respond to two letters from Riverfront Times requesting comment for this story.

Yell County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Tatum II says he has chat-room transcripts in which Batton boasts to Greenwell about setting up a webcam in his bedroom in order to record himself having sex with boys.

"To have this guy in our back yard and not know it was shocking," says Tatum. "We were glad to get the tip and get rid of him."

During an interrogation session on the day he was arrested in 2009, Greenwell revealed the name of a child pornographer whose handiwork was widely shared on Lost Boy. Investigators in LA and St. Louis knew of the man only by his online alias, "SpongeBob." In late 2009 a federal grand jury in Utah reviewed evidence that proved sufficient to indict Antonio Cardenas, a.k.a. SpongeBob, who is in jail awaiting trial, having entered a plea of not-guilty to seven counts of production and distribution of child pornography and aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Mize was able to identify two other child pornographers whose images were part of Greenwell's massive stash. One remains at large in a Midwestern state, according to the FBI. Investigators tracked down the other man, an insurance manager in New Hampshire, only to learn that he had committed suicide in 2008.

Click here to return to Riverfront Times' chronicle of the Lost Boy investigation, "The Scooby-Doo Files"

 
 
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