This year, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will honor...
- Homeland Security Investigations:
- Special Agent William Russell Hurst
- Special Agent Nathan L. Curry
- Special Agent Laura J. Gill
- Special Agent/Computer Forensics Agent Juan Avalos
- Computer Forensics Analyst Christopher Vogeler
- Special Agent Juanae Johnson
- Special Agent Marisa Schwartz
- Special Agent/Group Supervisor Gregory Tyler
Constable Precinct 2, Montgomery County, Texas Investigator Gregory S. Thomason
Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Texas Deputy Investigator Jeremy J. Thomas
Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office Detective Cory Arnold
Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office Joshua C. Brown
Conroe Police Department Detective Jeffrey Nichols
Assistant United States Attorney Southern District of Texas, Kimberly Ann Bulger Leo
Smithsonian Gardens, Washington, DC James Gagliardi
On June 15, 2017, a five-year-old victim of online child sexual exploitation was rescued by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston Special Agent (SA) William Russell Hurst and other SAs assigned to the HSI Houston Cyber Investigations Group, with assistance from state and local investigators assigned to the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The child had appeared in a series of child sexual abuse images that were known to domestic and international law enforcement and had been traded over a period of two years. With the identity and whereabouts of the victim unknown, NCMEC analysts enlisted help from James Gagliardi, horticulture expert from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He was able to narrow the geographical possibilities for the victim to 10 states. HSI analysts then focused on visible background items in the images. After extraordinary analytical efforts, the investigation led to a city just outside of Houston,Texas. Investigators searched local parks, dance studios, gyms and other venues for leads. After an exhaustive search, the suspect was located and the victim was rescued. On June 6, 2018, the offender pleaded guilty to federal charges of Production and Possession of Child Pornography and is awaiting sentencing at this time.
Caroline County Sheriff’s Office Detective Justin Reibly
Caroline County Dept. of Social Services CPS Investigator Sarah E. Lepore
Caroline County MD State’s Attorney Office State’s Attorney Joseph “Joe” Riley
In January 2017, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Social Services-Child Protective Services and the Caroline County State's Attorney's Office rescued a 15-year-old victim of sex trafficking.
Investigators say the child was being injected with heroin and forced into sex trafficking by a relative and the relative’s boyfriend. Both suspects were taken into custody and charged with First Degree Sex Offense and Child Abuse. They were later indicted by the Grand Jury on several charges to include Human Trafficking. On June 15, 2017 the judged issued a sentence of 20 years imprisonment for Human Trafficking.
After this investigation, investigators discovered that sex trafficking is not considered a crime of violence by Maryland state statute. In September 2017, Detective Corporal Reibly, CPS Worker Sarah Lepore and Interim State's Attorney Joseph Riley testified before a state committee in Annapolis to stress the current need of updated laws in the area of human trafficking. They also attended the Maryland Human Trafficking Investigators Seminar in April 2018 to present the case to the conference. For their ongoing efforts to help children and strengthen legislation, they were recognized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
- Montgomery County Police Department:
- Assistant Chief Russell Hamill
- Commander Darren Francke
- Sergeant Christopher Homrock
- Detective Mark Janney
- Detective David Davis
- Detective Katie Leggett
In March 1975, two sisters, 10-year-old Katherine Mary Lyon and 12-year-old Sheila Mary Lyon disappeared without a trace from Wheaton Plaza Mall in Maryland. For more than 40 years, the case remained unsolved. In 2013, new investigators with “fresh eyes” reviewed the case file. They discovered a 1977 mug shot of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr and realized that it had a strong resemblance to a police sketch of a possible suspect who had been seen near the girls the day they disappeared. Detectives quickly learned that Welch was in a Delaware prison serving a lengthy prison sentence for child sexual abuse, the culmination of a long criminal record that had begun a few years after the girls' disappearance with a burglary arrest in their jurisdiction.
In July of 2015, Welch was indicted and charged with the girls’ murders, and other family members were persons of interest. The detectives were persistent and began to unfold the details of this case that had haunted Montgomery County and the Washington D.C. area for decades. In September 2017, Welch pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for the abduction and murder of the two sisters. The case became one of the largest police investigations in the history of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. The girls' remains have never been found.
St. Charles County Police Department Detective Jared Queen
FBI Special Agent Nikki Badolato
Kyle Parks was a 54-year-old pimp in Columbus, Ohio. In December 2015, he enticed and recruited four children and two young adults and transported them to St. Charles Missouri to sell them for sex. Parks advertised the victims on Backpage.com and kept most of the money made through the sexual exploitation of these victims. Columbus Police in OH worked closely with St. Charles police in MO to track these victims across state lines. Five of six victims were initially located and recovered. The investigation into who was responsible for their victimization continued, and Parks was found the following day along with the sixth teen victim who was conscious yet incoherent in his vehicle.
With Parks arrested and the victims recovered, both Det. Queen and SA Badolato immediately began what turned into a historical investigation involving the review of thousands of texts and images, as well as Backpage.com advertisements. More importantly, over the next two years, these two law enforcement officers built and sustained trusting relationships with all six victims, helping them to receive services and counseling they needed and deserved. The case went to trial in January 2017. Due in part to the support, trust and rapport established by SA Badolato and Det. Queen, five of the six victims displayed an enormous amount of courage and resiliency at the trial. The defendant was convicted of one count of sex trafficking of a minor, two counts of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and six counts of interstate transportation with intent to commit prostitution. He was sentenced to 25 years, plus lifetime supervised release.