Eric Cross was heavily involved with many pedophiles in the nudist/naturist movement in the late 1970's to mid 1980's. This article and editorial is reprinted from TROPIC, the Miami Herald Newpaper's Magazine, October 9, 1983, and was written by John Dorschner.
ERIC CROSS: THE CHILD SEDUCER, Part I
His only office was a glass phone booth, one of five in the sun- baked prison yard. Behind him, on wooden benches other inmates waited to make calls. Calls were supposed to be limited to 10 minutes, but Eric Cross often talked longer than that. The men on the benches would heckle him, demanding he hurry up, and Cross would smile apologetically and keep talking.
He talked in cooing tones, with a strong British accent, as he stood there in his prison blues and red ID tag, saying he was calling from London, or Amsterdam, or New York, or Los Angeles, complaining about the cold or the rain, and all the time he was sweltering inside the phone booth, conning the parents of seven young Tampa girls to allow their daughters to pose nude for him.
He made it seem easy. Mervyn Eric Cross, prisoner 075592, persuaded the largest Tampa modeling agency to support the project. He talked a reputable photographer into taking the pictures. All from his phone booth. The photos were smuggled into prison, examined by him and then sent to his business partner, [Lodge] a Seattle schoolteacher who police consider to be a major child pornographer.
All along, law-enforcement authorities actually thought he was working for them. An investigator with the New York State Senate was trying to get Cross paroled - though Cross had more than 20 years to go on his sentence - so that Cross could work undercover in Manhattan. Sen. Paula Hawkins' office had become involved in the negotiations. Cross was boasting he would be released by August.
He told friends inside the prison that, when he was free, he wanted to meet with his favorites among the seven Tampa girls. He was planning to have sex with them.
This time, Eric Cross was caught. Most child pornographers and child molesters aren't. Victims and their families are usually too embarrassed or guilt-ridden to turn them in. But because Cross was operating from inside a prison, he had to set up an unusually elaborate and traceable system that offers a rare look into how molesters operate.
Everything you are about to read in this complex tale - all the psychological games that Eric Cross played, the way he wooed parents, the way he played on the boundless ambitions of naive parents who seek fame for their children, the way he used people's greed - all of that is the modus operandi of the child molester. Only 5 per cent of molesters are strangers to their victims. Their stratagem can be as simple as offering "baby-sitting help" to a harried mother, or buying a new dress for a mother on welfare, or befriending a child who feels ignored. Eric Cross has used all these methods over the years.
William Katz, director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: The only unusual aspect of this case is that it was organized from inside a prison. There are hundreds, literally hundreds of these schemes going on at any one time. '
Eric Cross has become a master of these schemes. As his prison report states, he is a multinational sex offender," convicted of molesting children in at least four countries. Interpol has requested that if Cross is ever released, it be notified immediately. He had continued his pornographic activities even in prison, and his previous jailers had warned Avon Park of exactly what he was about to do.
Detectives are still unraveling how Cross managed to do so much from inside a prison. The investigation has spread to California, Washington state, Virginia and Albuquerque. Interpol is making inquiries in the Philippines and the Netherlands. Indonesia and Greece may become involved.
Lloyd Martin, a California detective who has spent his career pursuing child molesters "He's probably one of the most dangerous human beings on the face of the earth. He has sold his products all over the world. He has no remorse, no feelings for any of his victims.'
Avon Park Correctional Institution sits in the orange-tree and scrub-pine country of Central Florida, a few miles from Sebring. Visitors must pass through an Air Force base before they approach the twin barbed-wire fences of New Unit, a series of pale pastel concrete buildings that look as if they have faded in the blistering sunlight. Trustee prisoners mow the grass outside the gate. Inside, prisoners sweep sidewalks beside the parched yellow grass.
For long-term inmates, Avon Park is considered the best place in the Florida prison system. Only the best-behaved prisoners are allowed here.
That's why 50-some child molesters are among the 1,100 inmates. Child molesters are the most despised of prisoners, even murderers and rapists sneer at "baby lovers." Molesters, who tend to be quiet and effete, regularly get beaten up at other prisons, but not at Avon Park.
Eric Cross arrived at Avon Park in April 1982, transferred from another Florida prison, and he became a hero among his peers. Many of them had seen photos he had taken in child- pornography magazines. "King of Porn," he had been called in Europe. He liked to boast about that.
He performed his required chores, he watched the news on television, but mostly he planned .ventures." He talked about raising a sunken treasure galleon, he negotiated to buy a yacht, he had all sorts of money-making schemes. He walked the sidewalks with close friends, planning out loud, or sat on the picnic benches back in a shaded area of the compound, where squirrels hopped among the trees.
A fellow prisoner: "He has a sense of what a person needs, what a person is looking for, what a person lacks, and he plays on that very well."
Eric Cross will not talk about what he calls "the current debacle," but he has done plenty of talking in the past.
At the prison, he liked to boast about his exploits to other pedophiles, as child molesters call themselves. He talked about how in the Philippines, he had started an orphanage, to gain access to young girls. In Los Angeles, he had sought out mothers on welfare, buying them a used washing machine or a meal, gaining their confidence so that they would allow their children to be taken to his "photographic studio." In India, he had taken a "child bride."
He is 57, a Britisher, married two or perhaps three times. Sometimes he has told prison officials that he is married to a British woman, sometimes he claims he is married to a young Indian woman. Prison records indicate one or both may have been molested by him when they were young. He has at least three children - the youngest daughter is now a ward of the state in Towchester, England.
He has told a prison official that other children had taunted him when he was young, that a girl had once turned away from him when she was supposed to kiss him during a game of spin-the-bottle. He never forgot that, and he has spent his adult life pursuing girls between the ages of 8 and 12.
He has been charged with molesting young girls twice in Canada and once in the Bahamas. In 1966, he purchased a small private school for retarded children in Whittlebury, England. There, he insisted on personally giving each child a "medical examination" before admission. Police eventually charged him with 11 counts of molesting girls under the age of 16.
Cross told police, "I have had this weakness for young girls for 17 years. I can't help it."
He was sentenced to five years in jail. Shortly after being released, he was arrested again. This time he was sent to a mental-health hospital for treatment. He escaped.
In 1973, he appeared in Broward County. With him was his 3- year-old daughter. He became friendly with two Broward families and persuaded the parents to let him take their two 9 - year-old daughters along with him to Disney World.
In a Kissimmee motel, he coerced the two girls into sex acts with him, while he photographed the scenes with a time-delay shutter device.'
Afterward, he flew to the Netherlands and gave 18 rolls of film to a developer. When the developer saw what was on them, he called police. Cross denied any connection with the film. The photos showed a male only from the waist down, but the man had a prominent 8-inch scar on his stomach. Cross had a scar that matched exactly.
He was returned to Florida, but even while he was awaiting trial in the Osceola County Jail, his obsession for children continued.
Rom Powell, the prosecutor in the case: "He was using another fellow, to set up a post office box and carry child-pornography materials back and forth," Powell says Cross' plan was "stopped very quickly."
Cross pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault upon a child. Before he was sentenced, the judge sent him for examination to the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee. He escaped. Police believed he had been aided by an 18-year-old woman from India, who was said to have been his "child bride."
Several months later, Los Angeles police found him with two young Indian women while staking out a house of a suspected pornographer. In Cross' car was child pornography.
Detective Bill Dworin of the Los Angeles P.D. "He offered to work for us, help catch other child pornographers. He boasted that he had helped lots of other law-enforcement agencies. But we checked him out... He's a con man.'
Other investigators, however, believed Cross. As soon as he was returned to Florida, federal authorities arranged for him to be transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, then to another federal prison in Virginia. Officials were hoping to use Cross as an undercover informant, but, says one investigator, "Nothing ever materialized." And even in the federal system, it appears, he was arranging for nude photos of children.
In a 1979 letter, he wrote to Robert Lodge, his Seattle associate: "Re pics from Philippines, there are eight rolls total, five girls - 7, 9, 10, 1 1, 1 1. The poses run from disrobing to showering, acrobatics and etc., quite remarkable poses and all explosive." He asked the Seattle man to "hang on" to the pictures.
In 1980, Cross was returned to Florida, to finish serving his 29- year sentence. At Baker Correctional Institution, he again offered to help investigators, this time in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Either he or his lawyer prepared an agreement in which FDLE would promise him immunity for future crimes.
"I made some changes in the document, and sent it back to him. 'How about this'?' I asked. But I never signed anything. We never reached an agreement... I always wondered why he pushed that immunity thing. It didn't make sense for a guy in jail, who can't do anything anyways.' --Agent Michael Brick
Cross never assisted FDLE, but he showed this correspondence to fellow prisoners and prison officials, bragging that he was now cooperating with police.
At the same time, he set up a Florida corporation, Viewfinder, Incorporated. David J. Massey
One of Cross' aliases - was listed as president. Robert Lodge of Seattle was listed as a corporate director.
Cross persuaded other prisoners to type a booklet about a plan to photograph schoolchildren with animals. When Cross found a child who interested him, he wrote the parents, claiming to be a British television agent vacationing in Florida. He promised to make their children into stars.
(These are the girls depicted in the popular "Linda and Patty" series of child pornography.)
Someone leaked word of the operation back to Jimmy Wolfe, Cross' prison counselor. Wolfe stopped the operation and had Cross shipped to Avon Park. He put into Cross' file a detailed memo of what Cross had been up to. "Subject has proven himself to be a super con man, very intelligent with an ongoing mental problem concerning young females. In my estimation, this makes him a very dangerous person indeed for the potential harm he has already done and of the amount that he could inflict in the future on young females."
The report was apparently sent along with Cross to Avon Park, though the superintendent there, Sidney Fortner, says he doesn't recall seeing Wolfe's warning
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