Feds Hope Public, Pretzels Can Help ID Alleged Child Molester

May 15, 2013
Feds Hope Public, Pretzels Can Help ID Alleged Child Molester
Feds Hope Public, Pretzels Can Help ID Alleged Child Molester (ABC News)

Federal investigators believe a bag of pretzels may help identify and locate a man accused of sexually molesting a young girl and distributing a pornographic video of the assault.

Old fashioned police work led investigators on two continents to file criminal charges this week against "John Doe," the unidentified man seen in the video, who authorities believe is living in the United States.

Two videos depicting the suspect -- described in a criminal complaint as a heavyset, bald male, aged 45 to 55, with a "beer gut" -- and a prepubescent girl aged 7 to 9, appeared on the Internet on May 2.

Both videos appeared to have been shot in the same location, a dimly lit room filled with musical instruments and equipment, as well as garbage, including empty beverage bottles and used snack bags.

The videos were discovered by the Danish National Police, which contacted U.S. authorities, believing the man in the video was American based on his appearance and items seen in the background of the videos.

Among those items was a bag of Rold Gold "Thins" pretzels. The pretzels, made by Frito-Lay, are sold exclusively in Canada and the United States. Investigators in both countries determined that the bag seen in the video, however, was only sold in the U.S. Canadian pretzel bags include French-language text.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency leading the investigation, isolated still images of the man's face from the explicit video.

Investigators are circulating images of the man and the room in which the videos were made, hoping the public can help to identify him.

Authorities in the past have successfully used technology and the public's help in tracking down child porn filmmakers.

In 2008, Interpol was able to digitally "unswirl" the face of Christopher Paul Neil, who had posted images of himself molesting boys in Thailand. In the images, Neil had digitally obscured his face by swirling the pixels. Once his face could be clearly seen, the public identified him and he was arrested.

In 2005, police edited out a victim from explicit images posted online and asked the public to help identify the room in which suspected abuse took place. Citizens identified the bedspread in the images as coming from a Disney resort in Orlando, Fla.