By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
September 2, 2006
Hood River County law enforcement officials have concluded their largest criminal case to date centered on pedophilia and child pornography.
On Monday Larry Van Horn, 23, appeared before Judge Donald Hull and pleaded guilty to the molestation of a boy and girl under the age of 14. He also admitted to four counts of encouraging child sex abuse by possession of outlawed pictures.
“I’ve never seen anything worse, and I’ve dealt with a lot of these types of cases before,” said Deputy District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen.
“The sad reality of this case is that we got justice for two local victims who were abused by Larry Van Horn. But there are hundreds of individual victims who will never know justice. Their images are still out there being traded like baseball cards over the Internet. In my opinion, each portrayal is a re-victimization of a young child who was forced to perform a sexual act with an adult.
“Unfortunately, as a prosecutor, I’m unable to get justice for each of those young victims, so this is a case that will never be finished as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Rasmussen and Sheriff Detective Bob Davidson spent hours thumbing through hundreds of sexually explicit photographs seized from Van Horn’s residence. The explicit material he illegally downloaded from the Internet involved victims of all ages, from infants to older teens.
“This was really hard to deal with. One’s mind just doesn’t work that way,” said Rasmussen.
The result of their research, and the undercover role taken by Davidson, landed Van Horn in prison for nine years. After being released, the former Neal Creek Road resident will have to register as a sex offender for life.
While preparing for court, Davidson and Rasmussen became concerned that Van Horn had also appeared to be stimulated by pictures routinely taken of children that were not sexual in nature.
“I think, based on this case, that people should be really careful to never post a naked photo of their child — even as innocent as a diaper change — on any Web site,” said Davidson.
After gaining information about Van Horn’s activities from an undisclosed source, he made Internet contact with the suspect in March. Davidson first claimed to be the mother of two young boys. The officer then professed to be a social service agency mentor to pre-teens “Luke” and “Samuel.”
In conversations with both fictitious individuals, Van Horn clearly indicated a sexual interest in the children.
According to Davidson, Van Horn also admitted to molesting a young male and female.
On June 1, a meeting was set up between the children and Van Horn at a swimming beach along the Columbia River. When the suspect arrived, he was approached by an undercover officer.
He immediately fled the scene, driving his vehicle through a ditch and through some underbrush in his haste to get away, according to Davidson.
Van Horn’s pickup was later found parked along Westcliff Drive and he was apprehended while attempting to hide in a hotel restroom.
Although he confessed to the crimes, the case took another bizarre twist on Aug. 2 when Van Horn was granted a furlough from jail for emergency dental work. He showed up hours after his scheduled return time and Rasmussen was then notified that he had made several phone calls to the home of his victims. Rasmussen added a Contempt of Court charge against Van Horn.
Davidson said Van Horn once worked as the custodian of a school in Parkdale — another source of concern. He is asking anyone with information about other potential victims to call his office at 387-6847.
Davidson said Van Horn’s computers have been turned over to an FBI lab in Portland. He is hopeful the federal agency can identify at least some of the young victims portrayed in photos and arrest their abusers.
“Solving this case gave me a lot of personal satisfaction. I feel really good about this conviction — it’s going to make the community a little safer for the kids,” he said.