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Ex-Priest Sought as Ringleader in Child Porn Ring

April 12, 1989|NIESON HIMMEL and JOHN H. LEE | Times Staff Writers

A former Roman Catholic priest described by neighbors as a "perfect gentleman" is one of two men being sought in connection with a ring that allegedly made pornographic videotapes of young boys in Mexico and Southern California and distributed them worldwide, Los Angeles police said Tuesday.

John Bauer, 52, was said by officers to have preyed on juveniles in Hollywood in recent years and to have owned porn shops in the Pacific Northwest.

Bauer, the alleged ringleader, is believed to have fled the country after slipping through police hands several months ago. Also being sought--and also thought to have fled the country--is Victor Feliciano, 29, a Rosemead handyman.

Others Under Arrest

Two other men are under arrest, however, said Detective Sgt. Ralph Bennett, of the Police Department's Exploited Child Unit. They were identified as Jerry Houchens, 49, of Santa Ana, and David Negrette, 26, of Huntington Beach, a former assistant Boy Scoutmaster.

Negrette was being held on $150,000 bail. He faces a preliminary hearing on April 21. Houchens is in jail with bail set at $200,000. He is to be arraigned today.

All four suspects have been charged with conspiracy to distribute child pornography. Bennett said they are members of the North American Man-Boy Love Assn., an organization of pedophiles that circulates child pornography.

Bennett said the suspects apparently picked up boys aged 8 to 14 on the streets of Ensenada and took them to motel rooms there to videotape them in sexual encounters with each other and with at least three of the four men. The boys were paid a few dollars apiece, the detective said.

Bennett said the case came to police attention last summer when a young boy told authorities at Children of the Night, a Hollywood shelter for runaways, that he had been picked up by Bauer and taken to the ex-priest's apartment nearby, where he saw photographs of nude boys.

Officers went to the apartment in the 1500 block of North Martel Avenue and removed a truckload of videotapes, videotaping equipment and other material. They also reported finding some marijuana plants.

Bauer was arrested Aug. 23 on suspicion of cultivating marijuana. He posted $1,000 bail and disappeared. It was not until after he had left--apparently for Europe--that officers were able to go through the seized material and realize that pornography charges could be filed, Bennett said.

A woman staff member at the Hollywood shelter said Tuesday night that police told her "this guy (Bauer) has been doing it (videotaping young boys) for a while."

"We had heard about him from more than one child," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

Lucille Hotnog , the manager at the apartment building where Bauer lived, described him as "a rather attractive gray-haired gentleman with glasses." She said he appeared to be a retiree and that he told her that he "accrued a lot of money--T-bills, trust funds. He often swam in the daytime, or lounged by the pool."

Apartment Remodeled

Bauer's apartment was remodeled before his arrest, Hotnog said, "but when the construction workers went in, there were no pictures or unusual plants. I had no suspicion. I didn't see him with one child, only with adult friends."

Nathan Chew, a neighbor, remembered Bauer as "the guy who was always wearing Hawaiian shirts. The only people I saw him with were his age--older guys."

According to a 1984 article in Chic magazine, Bauer was ordained in 1963. His support of several activist causes, such as the gay rights movement, eventually brought him into conflict with his church superiors. He left the priesthood in 1970 and took a teaching position at Montana State University.

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