A videotape that contained samples from more than 200 homemade sex movies was sent anonymously to law enforcement authorities last year, launching a child molestation investigation that led to the arrest of a Rancho Santa Margarita couple, a sheriff's investigator testified Thursday.
The videotape gave authorities a roadmap that led to a locked chest stored in a bedroom closet of the couple's home containing 216 videotapes and CDs, many of them depicting the couple having sex with children, investigators said.
Investigators said they did not know who sent them the tape or who had the access or time to record snippets from so many movies.
Thursday's testimony offered a first glimpse into the case against David Hwang, 31, and his wife, Sheila Sikat, 23. The hearing, which was continued until April 20, will determine whether the couple should stand trial.
Orange County sheriff's investigators contend the tapes and CDs reveal six children being molested. Detectives said they believed five of the girls were molested in Texas, where Hwang once lived. The sixth, a 5-year-old girl, was molested in California, detectives said.
Hwang and Sikat have pleaded not guilty to 90 felony counts each relating to the alleged California victim. Charges include kidnapping to commit a sex crime, child pornography and lewd acts on a child. If convicted, they face multiple life terms, Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Costello said.
Hwang also faces additional charges in Laredo, Texas, for alleged molestation on the other children whom detectives identified from the tapes. One of those alleged victims was an 8-month-old girl, police said.
During last September's search of the couple's home, police said, they confiscated the videotapes from a chest containing pictures of Hwang and Sikat participating in sex acts with the girl. Hwang's computers, which police said contained 1,000 child-pornography images, were also seized.
During Thursday's hearing at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, Hwang and Sikat sat next to each other, both chained at their arms and legs. They looked down and did not appear to acknowledge each other during the three-hour hearing.
The videotape that started the investigation was sent to the Orange County Sheriff's Department with a note attached, identifying the man on the tape as Hwang and listing his address, Costello said.
When police went to Hwang's home on Via Hacienda, Sikat answered the door. Investigators said they did not recognize Sikat from the videotape and showed her portions of it, in hopes of getting help to identify the people.
"She identified herself and David Hwang on the videos," Orange County sheriff's investigator Wade Wasvick testified, adding that a rose tattoo on her back also matched the one on the video.
"She said Hwang had different sex desires and fantasies," Wasvick testified. "He liked very young children, 5 or 6."
Wasvick said Sikat asked to care for the young child under the ruse that she hoped to be a mother someday and wanted to practice her parenting skills.
The couple took care of the girl at least 12 times during a two-year span, taking her to Disneyland and on other outings, said Hwang's attorney, Rudolph Loewenstein.