Caught in the Net

The Web was a pedophile's paradise -- until Mike and Cassandra Harris logged on.

In May 2000, Richard Templeton picked up a thirteen-year-old girl at Arvada Middle School; he'd met her on the Internet. He took the girl to a park, sexually assaulted her, and then threatened her. I know where you live.

He did it again, twice, before the girl's mother found a love letter from the man. The girl admitted she knew Templeton but denied that there'd been any sexual contact. Arvada detectives brought the case to Harris's team.

Scott Laumenn
Mike and Cassandra Harris have a line on pedophiles.
John Johnston
Mike and Cassandra Harris have a line on pedophiles.

They knew Templeton's AOL moniker was Super225, so when the Harrises saw him sign on, they sent a message from Cutie2kewl.

Are you SuperStar25 who was John?

No, Templeton answered.

Sorry to have bothered you, they sent back, and let him go. They were getting pretty good at reading these guys. He'd check out Cutie2kewl's profile, and then they'd hear from him again.

Sure enough, when they signed on as Cutie2kewl a week later, Templeton sent an instant message. Three weeks later, after receiving a photograph showing Cassandra as a nubile cheerleader, he left a message on the undercover telephone at the Harris apartment. So I'm 40. So you're 14. Age is just a number. I don't care what people think. I don't care if it's against the law. You're mine.

Harris thought it was one of the stupidest moves he'd seen yet, but it was a great piece of evidence for the investigators. Templeton wouldn't be able to deny that he knew his victim was a minor, that he was planning to break the law.

Templeton asked if he could visit Kendra's apartment when her mother was out. Kendra told him she was worried about the neighbors and asked him instead to pick her up outside the complex where she supposedly lived. She was sitting on the curb when he pulled up without a worry in the world. Then he opened the car door, and that world came crashing down.

Harris called the Arvada mother and told her about the arrest. Ten minutes later, the mother called back. "I think you need to talk to my daughter," she said. With Templeton in jail, the girl was no longer afraid and was ready to tell her story. As a result, the Jeffco DA was able to add sexual assault to the charge of attempted sexual assault.

A month after the Templeton bust, Cassandra was crossing a motel parking lot while Jeff Beebe waved from a second-story balcony. She'd spotted him right away but had had to stall for time while her backup raced to get into place.

Beebe had made them wait seven hours, but they'd expected him to be erratic because of the drugs. Beebe's motel switch was a bigger problem. Cassandra and the rest of her team from the Jeffco DA's Crimes Against Children division, as well as the Wheat Ridge Police Department and the West Metro Drug Task Force, had planned the arrest down to the slightest detail. Even the motel clerk was a cop.

Then Beebe, that cheap bastard, had changed motels. Suddenly, the risks had escalated. Beebe had told her to come to the playground, where he'd contact her. What did that mean? What if he drove up in a car and insisted she get inside it? Or what if he was holed up in a place where it would be tough to reach him without putting herself in a great deal of danger? Cassandra didn't carry her gun while posing as a teenager.

The Harrises knew that the longer Cassandra kept posing as a target, the more her picture would get around on the Net. Someone, someday, would get a photograph and a message saying Watch out, this girl's a cop. Then it would be easy to set her up, turn the tables.

So Cassandra stalled. She dropped her pack, slowly picked up what spilled out of it. As she approached the stairwell, she could see her husband and another investigator racing beneath the balcony. And when she emerged at the top, they were coming up right behind Beebe.

He had no idea they were there. Beebe had what they'd come to know as "target lock." He had one thing and one thing only on his mind: sex with the teenager standing coyly in front of him.

A few minutes later, she was backing down the stairs as Mike Harris yelled, "Grab her. I want to talk to her." The other investigators hustled Cassandra out of sight. While the suspect lay sprawled on the ground, she proceeded to the motel office, where she picked up the registration form Beebe had filled out -- proof of his criminal intentions.

Mike Harris's office -- Cassandra calls the dimly lit space "the cave" -- is adorned with photos of his wife. Only they're not really his wife. They're Katie. They're Tommy. They're Tigger. They're Cassandra wearing coke-bottle glasses and overalls. Cassandra as a cheerleader.

There are also photographs of the sex offenders they've brought to justice -- a population of doomed men in orange jail jumpsuits. There's the framed photograph of a little boy, with the words "Why We Do, What We Do." And there's a school photograph of a pretty blonde who was once a nine-year-old girl raped by her mother's boyfriend. One night, about two years after Harris had found the girl at the motel, his pager had gone off at 1 a.m., waking him from a deep sleep. "I don't like cops, and I don't like you," a male voice said, then added that an eleven-year-old girl had given him the pager number and asked him to call. "I just left her," the man said. "She's in a motel on Colfax Avenue with her mother and three drunk guys. She was in bed with one of them when I left."

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