Crucial Evidence in Child Molest Cases That Is Rarely Disposed Of - Even After 20 Years

by Dan Willis

There is a psychological compulsion that drives child molesters to relive their sexual fantasies with their victims. This compulsion can often provide the child molest investigator with the best possible evidence to corroborate the victim's allegations. The case of Harold Sowers demonstrates how a molester's innate craving to seek and maintain mementos of their victims often ensures that crucial evidence will remain undisturbed, waiting for the investigator to discover it.

Harold Sowers molested the 8-year old victim in 1974. The victim did not report it until 1994 (the year California temporarily lifted the statue of limitations for child molestation). Mr. Sowers posed the nude victim and took photos of him in 1974. A search warrant was later obtained based upon the belief of the affiant's training and experience that molester's who take a memento of their victim are more likely than not, reasonably expected to keep them as one of their most prized possessions for life.

When the search warrant was executed, the 8"X11" framed nude photos of the victim were found in Mr. Sowers' home-even after 20 years of no contact with the victim.

Due to several appeals, it took 7 years for the case to be resolved, with Mr. Sowers pleading guilty to child molestation in 2001-at the time thought to be the longest time between a crime and subsequent conviction in San Diego County history.

Child molesters will tend to crave and maintain such items as their most prized possessions, often for life. This understanding is invaluable in investigating child molest cases and obtaining corroborating evidence of the victim's allegations.

It is imperative for investigators to ask victims if any photos were taken of them or traded with the molester. Investigators need to ascertain whether cards, letters, E-mails, gifts, or other writings were exchanged as well. Often these items will be the only evidence available to corroborate the victim-evidence the molester is likely to never throw away as proven by this case. It is hoped that this information may be useful for investigators in obtaining a search warrant in older cases.

Captain Dan Willis (original investigator in case) La Mesa Police dwillis@ci.la-mesa.ca.us
(619) 667-7530