Did this man’s behavior blur the line
between truth and fantasy?
In an online chat room, the truth is not so simple. Pennsylvania Detective Michele Deery’s job is to catch sexual predators by pretending to be someone she’s not. But was her ruse entrapment? One man looking for sex with her thought that she wouldn’t have sex with him unless he also wrote about having sex with her kids. But Detective Deery thought he knew too much about child rape in his explicit conversations and was a potentially dangerous predator.
A Crime of Shadows by Mark Bowden in Vanity Fair magazine:
Her parents sent her to Catholic schools, and her mother, a retired district judge, now jokes that she wants her money back. Her daughter’s beat is in the vilest corners of cyberspace, in chat rooms indicating "fetish" or various subgenres of flagrant peccancy. One of the many false identities Deery has assumed online is something truly rare, even in this polluted pondthat of a middle-aged mother of two pre-pubescent girls who is offering them up for sex. Baiting her hook with this forbidden fruit, she would cast the line and wait to see who bit.
It usually didn’t take long. Men began vying for her attention the minute she logged on, night or day. Deery would begin a dialogue, dangling the illicit possibility, gauging how serious her mark was. There were "players," those who were just horny and despicable, and there were doers, or at least potential doers, the true bad guys. The goal was to identify the latter, hook them, and then reel them in, turn them into "travelers." Once a traveler took that all-important step out of fantasy and into the real world, his behavior went from the merely immoral to the overtly criminal. When they delivered themselves for the promised rendezvous, instead of meeting a mother and her young daughters they would find a team of well-armed, cheerfully disgusted Delaware County police officers. As a fantasy, her come-on seemed overbakednot one daughter, but two! It is doubtful that such a woman exists anywhere, and yet men fell for it. Her unit had a near-100-percent conviction rate. The bulletin board over her desk displays mug shots of her catches, very ordinary-looking men, facing the camera wide-eyed with shock, staring at the fresh ruin of their lives.
Read the complete story: A Crime of Shadows, Vanity Fair>>
– Q&A: Mark Bowden Talks About "A Crime of Shadows" in Vanity Fair>>