Police find hundreds of child porn images in Westside home; occupant arrested
By JENNIFER SQUIRES
Sentinel staff writer
SANTA CRUZ — Police said they found hundreds of pornographic images of young girls inside a Westside house Wednesday, arrested the resident on suspicion of buying the illegal material and are investigating whether he also produced child porn.
Capt. Steve Clark said investigators recovered a "mother lode of child porn" inside the fortress-like house at *** **** Ave. after they arrested the resident, 44-year-old Roy Lee Dettle.
The noontime bust was part of a larger investigation headed by the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General's Office and the FBI, according to police. They had focused on Dettle for about three months.
Clark said Dettle's reaction to the raid "was one of confusion, one of surprise. ... His answers largely did not make sense"
Late Wednesday, investigators had confiscated more than 200 child porn videos produced in the U.S. and abroad, fantasy-driven writings that reference children and kids' photos that had been cut from magazines, Clark said. They plan to return to the scene today.
Police said they were taken aback by the volume of material.
"Anytime, especially being a father and having daughters of my own, anytime I hear about this exploitation and victimization of kids, I'm just deeply concerned," Clark said.
Dettle had lived on the street — a quiet area three blocks from West Cliff Drive — for about 11/2 years, but was a recluse, according to several neighbors. They said he seemed to spend most of his time inside his house, which is equipped with a series of surveillance cameras and surrounded by overgrown vines threaded with razor wire.
"He had built basically a fortress to keep anyone out as well as anyone from going in," Clark said.
Neighbors thought the overgrown house was strange and one called Dettle "weird," but they didn't expect Wednesday's raid.
"The neighborhood is really friendly. I feel like I'm living in a community," said Harben Porter, a UC Santa Cruz student who lives across the street from Dettle but had never seen him. "I don't have any complaints, until now"
According to police, Dettle is unemployed, not married and has no children. He also doesn't have criminal record, Clark said.
Postal Service inspectors were tipped off to him when he allegedly ordered child pornography through the mail and had it delivered to a locked pass-through mailbox at his house, investigators said. After a postal carrier dropped off his order of 11 child porn videos — at least one featuring girls ages 6-9 — on Wednesday morning, police came to serve a search warrant, Clark said.
"This one's unique ... just in the way that this transaction came about," Clark said. "We see a lot of the contemporary child pornography is shared through the Internet. This one was predominantly done through the U.S. Postal Service"
Police are still investigating if Dettle produced any child pornography and are checking with neighbors to see what kind of contact Dettle might have had with children, Clark said.
"It's not uncommon for individuals who are involved in this kind of activity to produce their own and look to share that with other people in their network," Clark said. "In our canvas of the neighborhood after the initial stages of the search warrant, we obtained some information from neighbors that had caused us some concern"
Investigators found a plastic-lined, hand-dug, 2-foot deep wading pool covered with a white awning in his backyard, as well as a stage and a small trailer painted white with a bed set up inside. Clark speculated they could be backdrops for filming.
Porter, one of the neighbors, appeared alarmed at the news and said several children live in the area.
"There's always kids riding their bikes in the street," she said.
Police also booked Dettle into County Jail on suspicion of possessing stolen property because he had several city of Santa Cruz road signs and barricades on his property. Clark expected more charges would be filed.