West Bend man faces felony charges after she learned he contacted her son

By DAN BENSON
Dec. 30, 2005

Investigators tried for more than two years to build a case against a
prominent West Bend businessman they suspected was seeking out boys for
sex but could not produce solid evidence.

That was until a self-described nosy mother in Colorado began snooping in
her 13-year-old son’s bedroom. Suspicious of a note she found, she began
peering into his e-mails and uncovered a troubling message from someone
calling himself “Badgervirgo” that led her to troll the Internet for
hours in an effort to trace his identity.

Her digging proved to be a break in the case that led to Curtis J.
Schmidt, 67, of West Bend being charged this week with 20 counts of
possessing child pornography, soliciting sex online from a 13-year-old
boy and distributing a videotape of a child engaging in sexual activity.

“She did what a lot of parents do, and that is monitor what their
children are doing on the Internet and discovered that a sexual predator
had approached her son online,” said Special Agent Eric Szatkowski, a
member of Wisconsin’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. “She
was very pivotal in the success of the investigation.”

“When the new tip came in, that allowed us to reopen the investigation
and develop the probable cause for the search warrant” that led to
charges being filed, he said.

According to a criminal complaint, state Division of Criminal
Investigation agents executed that warrant on Dec. 22 at Schmidt’s West
Bend home and at Schmidt Funeral Home, 629 Cedar St. in West Bend, where
they seized computer equipment, computer disks and other materials
allegedly containing images of child pornography and sexually explicit
e-mails.

Other documents also detail a 2003 investigation into allegations that
Schmidt had over the years assaulted boys and possessed child
pornography. That investigation was thwarted, however, when family
members “junked” his personal computer, on which pornographic images of
children were thought to be stored, documents allege.

But the case gained new life in November, when the Colorado woman, who
asked to not be identified for this story to protect her son’s identity,
notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in
Alexandria, Va., that someone with an online name of “Badgervirgo” had
sent an e-mail soliciting sex from her 13-year-old son.

A copy of that e-mail, along with a phone number she had found, were
forwarded to Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation officials on
Dec. 12.

The mother said she discovered the e-mail after she noticed handwritten
notes in her son’s room that referred to someone named “Curt,” a name she
did not recognize as one of her son’s friends.

The notes included messages such as, “Unblock Badgervirgo,” “Take pics of
(a friend) and me give to Curt,” “Checkmark CID on phone,” and “To do,
see when Curt moved, help Curt find home.”

“Being a nosy mother, I figured out a way to get into his (America
Online) account,” she said.

“I discovered two messages from Badgervirgo. The first one was a
friendship message. The second one was not pretty at all.”

The second message was the alleged solicitation for sex.

“After I read that message, I was so angry,” she said.

She became even more concerned when she realized that “Checkmark CID”
referred probably to turning off the family telephone’s caller
identification and that, as her son later admitted, “Curt” had the family
phone number and had spoken to her son on the phone.

One of the notes had a phone number that she was able to trace to Schmidt
using an Internet-based reverse telephone directory.

“It took me about three hours. It provided me with the name, but no
address,” she said.

That’s when she contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children in Alexandria, Va. The center – established in 1998 as a means
for Internet service providers, parents and others to report instances of
online child sexual exploitation and solicitation – analyzes such tips
and provides information to appropriate agencies such as the FBI and
state law enforcement.

Szatkowski, of Wisconsin’s Internet crimes task force, said the
investigation into Schmidt’s case is ongoing and that other alleged
victims may emerge. And he urged parents to follow the lead of the
Colorado mom.

She said Friday that she had no idea that she would break a big case. She
was only trying to protect her son from an online sexual predator, she
said.

“I didn’t realize that without my input a lot of this couldn’t have
happened,” she said. “I am so glad I could help. I hope a lot of good can
come out of this and no more people will get hurt.”

As for her son, she added, he was so scared “that he has given up the
computer of his own free will.”

© 2005, Journal Sentinel Inc.

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