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2 Men Held in Molestations; Child Porno and Guns Seized

Crime: Convicted sex offenders are accused of abusing neighborhood children. San Bernardino County authorities confiscate hundreds of thousands of photos and 800 videos.

June 28, 1996|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN BERNARDINO — Two convicted sex offenders have been arrested on suspicion of child molestation, leading to the seizure of the largest personal collection of child pornography and the most deadly cache of exotic weapons ever confiscated in San Bernardino County, authorities said Thursday.

The two men--Don Stephenson, 52, and Donald Collins, 48--were arrested last Friday after allegedly molesting three neighborhood boys, ages 4, 7 and 9, said Woody Williams, deputy chief of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Since then, three more youths, including a girl now 16, have been identified as victims and interviewed, and there may be more than 100 additional victims, Williams said.

The two men have lived in a small mobile home in nearby Highland for about a year and may have lived in various other Southern California communities for the last 20 years or longer, he said.

Investigators said they seized "hundreds of thousands" of pornographic photographs and about 800 pornographic videos and films, many of which show the two men committing sex acts with children.

Investigators say they have viewed and cataloged only a small fraction of the material so far, and it may take more than six months to finish the job.

The photographs were in scrapbooks that the men had identified with such titles as "female siblings," "female/male," "female sets" and "male sets."

It was unclear whether the men were responsible for taking all the photographs, or taking some and then swapping material with other child pornographers, investigators said.

In addition to the pornography, the department displayed weapons officials said the men apparently had constructed or modified--including three fully automatic machine guns, one with a silencer, a Vietnam War-era helicopter Gatling gun and a bizarre, short-barreled single-shot shotgun constructed from a derringer.

It was unclear whether the men were preparing the weapons for sale or for their own use, Williams said. Thousands of rounds of .45- and .380-caliber ammunition were also confiscated.

"This is probably the most dangerous group of weapons we've ever seized," Williams said.

Authorities also confiscated a computer and were trying to determine if any of the photographs were transmitted through the Internet, Williams said.

Collins and Stephenson were arraigned Tuesday on various pornography, child molestation, sex and weapons charges and each was being held on $250,000 bail.

Stephenson, who was working at a fast-food restaurant, was described by Sgt. Toby Tyler as very well known among pedophiles who network with one another around the country. He has been convicted four times on child pornography charges.

Less is known about Collins, who is a welder, Tyler said. He has been convicted twice on sex-related charges, authorities said.

Each of the men faces a prison term of 25 years to life if convicted under the "three strikes" law. They said they met while serving time during the mid-1980s at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, Williams said.

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