Nationwide manhunt for 'John Doe' child pornography suspect ends with HSI arrest in northern California, rescue of child

Nationwide manhunt for 'John Doe' child pornography suspect ends with HSI arrest in northern California, rescue of child

Investigators release photos of defendant seeking other possible unidentified victims

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Photos/court document:

The images shown here have been pulled from a video depicting the sexual abuse of a minor. These images have been sanitized for public release:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Salinas man alleged to be the "John Doe" child predator sought in a nationwide manhunt made his initial appearance in federal court Thursday following his capture Wednesday, a little more than 24 hours after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) issued a public appeal for leads in the case.

David J. Stevens, 58, was taken into custody in Salinas by HSI special agents and investigators with the Salinas Police Department. Authorities also rescued a child victim identified in the case. The arrest and rescue came after a member of the public called in a lead to ICE's tip line. Stevens appeared before a federal magistrate in San Jose, where the case will be prosecuted.

The criminal complaint and arrest warrant for John Doe were signed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. At that time, HSI had no information about the identity or whereabouts of John Doe, but he was believed to be located somewhere in the United States. The victim he recorded being sexually abused was believed to be 7 to 9 years old.

"When the HSI special agents investigating this case ran out of leads, we turned to the media and the general public for help," said ICE Director John Morton. "A day later, a tip from the public has led to the capture of an alleged predator and more importantly, the rescue of a child. I applaud our investigators, the media and the brave individual who provided critical information. Without the public's help we would not have solved this case."

"This predator was arrested very quickly after the member of the public came forward to identify him," said Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin. "Thanks to a longstanding relationship between the Salinas Police Department and HSI, strengthened by HSI's presence at the Law Enforcement Operations Center in Salinas, both agencies worked together closely to ensure the suspect was captured quickly and vital evidence of his crimes was recovered. The Salinas Police Department is grateful to HSI and all our federal partners for their ongoing commitment to the safety and security of the people of Salinas and Monterey County."

According to the criminal complaint filed by HSI in Washington, D.C., four videos of child pornography with date stamps of April 14 and 27 were first discovered by the Danish National Police on May 3 and referred to U.S. law enforcement for further investigation.

Following Stevens' arrest, investigators obtained a search warrant for the defendant's Salinas residence where they seized additional evidence related to the case. Based upon interviews with witnesses, HSI special agents believe there may be additional unidentified child victims and are asking anyone with further information regarding the person in the photographs below, who has now been identified as David John Stevens, of Salinas, to call ICE's tip line - 1-866-347-2423 or the Salinas Police Department's Investigations Division at 1-831-758-7226. The public may also contact the Salinas Police Department anonymously by calling 1-831-775-4222 or by contacting the We-Tip line at 1-800-78-CRIME.

HSI's Victim Identification Program seeks to rescue child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

This investigation is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

# ICE #

Media contacts:

  • ICE Public Affairs: 1-949-360-3096
  • Salinas Police Department: 1-831-758-7350