By Chris Hansen, Dateline Correspondent
These posts are meant to coincide with the broadcast.
One of the things you may notice tonight as you watch our 11th "To Catch A Predator" investigation is how much more interaction there is between the men and the young woman we've hired to be our onsite decoy. In past investigations the young woman or young man typically invites the potential predator in, chats for a few seconds, and then disappears.
Here in New Jersey, where we've set up in a multi-million dollar home on the beach, our decoy Casey is able to have much longer conversations with the men. This gives us a keen insight into what they plan on doing to a young teen. Usually we mostly rely on the men's online chats with Perverted Justice decoys and while that does give us a graphic look at these guy's intentions, it is really startling to see them engage in the grooming process in real-time.
At the start of each of these investigations I'm never sure what to expect from the onsite decoy. They are usually college students who happen to look younger than they are, who have an interest in the theatre, and see this as a chance to perform and do something worthwhile in the process. All of the ones we've used have been sharp kids and have done a great job for us. Here in New Jersey, though, you'll see tonight Casey's work is extraordinary.
A few months ago, in our Flagler Beach, Fla., investigation, we tried something different: a second location on the beach. Here in New Jersey, thanks to all the hard work of Mitch Wagenberg and his crew, we just about perfected it. It gives us the option of having the decoy invite the guys into a different setting. I wasn't sure it would work out as well as it did. Would the men be nervous about being seen in public with a young girl? What if a beachcomber walked by and spooked him?
As you'll see, it posed no problem at all. Several of our visitors seemed very comfortable in the beach chair. The real challenge was getting good, quality audio on the beach without having the men see a microphone. It's another technological feat. The microphones were hidden in seashells.
I know I have said this before, but each time we do another "To Catch a Predator" investigation, I keep wondering if it's going to be the one where no one shows up. After all, this one is our 11th. We've conducted them in 8 different states now and 286 men have surfaced in the investigation over three years; 256 have been arrested and, as of this writing, 117 men have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty after a trial. You'd think word would get out -- and I suppose it has -- but here on the Jersey shore men are practically lined up at our door.
Many of them -- perhaps a third to a half -- know exactly what they've walked into as soon as they see me. In a few minutes you'll meet Michael Lubrano. He's 25 and comes to our house to meet a girl who told him she was 14. Here's another "To Catch a Predator first."
He brings marijuana and actually has Casey the decoy give it the smell test. Now listen to what he says when I walk out. He knows exactly who I am. In the back of my mind I'm thinking: How could a guy who "religiously" watches our show walk into one of our hidden camera houses? Listen to the compliment he gives me. For those of you who don't know, "Opie and Anthony" is a syndicated morning radio show.
In this investigation we continue to see men from all walks of life and of all ages. Before the New Jersey operation is over we'll meet an engineer, a school bus driver, a former camp counselor, a retired fire fighter and, as you're about to see, a 33-year old Air Force mechanic named Ernest Timmons. He shows up after a sexually explicit conversation with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. Watch how fast he moves after he comes into our house. I've never seen anything quite like this guy.
He's got his expensive digital camera in hand and ready to go as he tries to hustle Casey upstairs for some quick photos. There's a moment when our decoys tells him she wants to stay downstairs and talk first and that's when I sense he might be ready to take off. As I walk into the room and start to talk to him, he offers up his excuses: a big misunderstanding; a friend sent him.
While sweating profusely, he's sticking to his story. He tells me he's about to be deployed to Iraq. Apparently that's not going to be happening anymore.