Fear turns to anger after police arrest man they say sought sex

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Friday, July 27, 2012

— The tears didn’t come in earnest until the Janesville mother found out the man accused of driving from Michigan to meet her 13-year-old daughter had been arrested.

Until then, he had seemed like a far-away danger. She thought of him as a dirty, old man who lived far away and wouldn’t really hurt her daughter.

Then Janesville police Detective Steve Williams called July 16 to say officers had arrested Jerry J. Osmolinski, 64, Belding, Mich., at an address on North Franklin Street in Janesville.

Police believe Osmolinski had driven from Michigan to Janesville expecting to meet the woman’s daughter, who had turned 13 two weeks earlier.

“I cried for two days,” the woman said. “Now, I’m just very angry.”

The Gazette is not publishing the woman’s name to protect the child’s identity.

Two weeks earlier, Williams told the mother he wasn’t sure the man would drive to Janesville. She thought the whole thing might be over.

“So, when I got that phone call, it was very hard,” the woman said. “I was shocked that he did. I was scared. If police hadn’t gotten involved, it would have been my daughter missing.”

Osmolinski is charged in Rock County Court with using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and exposing a child to harmful material. He is in custody at the Rock County Jail on a $10,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to apply for a defense attorney paid by the county. He does not qualify for services from the state public defender’s office, court officials said this week.

Osmolinski also could be charged in Michigan, where police have executed a search warrant at his home, according to a news release from Michigan State Police.

The investigation started in April, the mother told The Gazette. The girl’s sister had overheard a strange telephone conversation and told her mom. The mother flipped through numbers on the family’s home phone and found one that didn’t belong. She confronted her daughter, who wouldn’t talk about it.

The mother called police.

Williams learned the girl had connected online with a man in Arizona. The man stopped communicating with her when he found out she was 12, the mother said.

The investigation was closed.

A few weeks later, the mother called Williams and asked if he still had the passwords to her daughter’s online accounts. The girl continued acting strangely, she said.

Williams had the passwords and logged on to the girl’s accounts. He confirmed the mother’s worst fears.

The 12-year-old girl had found her way onto an adult chat site and had been communicating with a man. Although she was banned from using the Internet at home, she had created a new email account from a computer outside the home, the mother said.

First, Williams logged on to the girl’s accounts and changed the passwords, the mother said. He found messages the girl had exchanged with the man between April and July. He found pictures the man had emailed her of a penis. He found sexually explicit emails between the two, according to the criminal complaint filed July 17 in Rock County Court.

“I am risking going to jail the rest of my life for you if we get caught,” Osmolinski wrote the girl June 6, according to the complaint.

He sent fake pictures of himself to the girl, but she knew Osmolinski was 64, Williams said.

“He was paying attention to her,” Williams said about the girl’s motivation to continue the online conversations.

After he’d taken over her accounts, Williams wanted to prevent the man from going to the family’s home. Imitating the girl’s writing style as best he could, Williams sent the man messages indicating her parents had broken up and that she had moved to a new address with her mother.

“I gave him a different address. I said the mom and child moved,” Williams said. “So she was safer.”

Typing as the girl, Williams arranged to meet the man at the fake address on North Franklin Street.

Williams coordinated with the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit. Michigan investigators set up surveillance outside Osmolinski’s home in Belding. They agreed to follow him if he left and headed to Janesville.

A Michigan detective called Williams at 4:30 a.m. July 16 and said they were following Osmolinski’s truck. They stayed on it until Williams and Janesville Detective Dennis LeCaptain took over outside Chicago. They arrested Osmolinski at 10:30 a.m. at the fake address on North Franklin Street, according to the complaint.

Osmolinski told police he thought the girl was 15. He said he thought she’d just had a birthday, and be bought her a necklace. He also bought a sexual device, according to the complaint.

It was the first time in five years Williams had seen someone accused of making plans to drive to Janesville to have sex with a child. He said the Janesville department more often sees cases in which a person from out of state connects online with a child and convinces the child to send sexual pictures of himself or herself.

Parents sometimes find the pictures and call police, Williams said. Police seize the photos and forward the investigation to police where the adult lives, Williams said.

“Normally, a parent finds pictures they wouldn’t expect their child to take of themselves on their computer,” Williams said. “We find those and take them.”

Cases of sexual exploitation of children cross socio-economic, gender and racial lines, Williams said.

“It could happen to anybody, really,” Williams said.

The best defense for parents is to get involved with their children’s Internet activity while they are young. That way, when they get old enough to come in contact with risky situations, they are accustomed to their parents’ involvement in online activities, Williams said.

“If they get involved early, it’s commonplace,” Williams said. “You don’t let your kid walk to the park by themselves when they’re 4. The Internet should be the same way.”

Since the story broke, the mother has read comments on news stories. In many cases, people write things such as, “That’s why I watch everything my child does,” the woman said.

“So did I,” the woman said. “I did, too. I looked at her Facebook (page). I looked at her email accounts. My daughter created another.”

The family has since contacted Hedberg Public Library and school officials to make sure the girl can’t access the Internet at those places. The girl has started counseling, the mother said.

The girl has been having nightmares since she found out the man was arrested, her mother said.

“On the computer, to her and so many kids, it’s not real,” the woman said. “You’re not seeing this person. It’s not real. Once she realized he drove here to Janesville and was arrested, she was very terrified.”

Like Williams, the woman now realizes no family is immune to this kind of crime.

“I don’t want any parent to think this could never happen to their child,” the mother said. “Because I was one of those. I thought that, too.”

Last updated: 5:03 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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