FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne Police Department investigation resulted in two men being arrested on felony counts of child exploitation and possession of child pornography. Walter Gross Jr., 57, and his son, Eric Gross, 28, were both arrested Thursday.
Because child pornography can sometimes be a precursor to child sex trafficking, 24-Hour News 8’s sister station, WANE, was continuing to dig deeper into catching hidden predators and met with Fort Wayne police detectives about how they investigate child porn cases.
“Our fear is the child predator, the one looking at child porn, eventually they want that fantasy to be real and it happens. They go from watching videos and grooming and they want to perpetrate on children,” Sgt. Caesar DeJesus said.
DeJesus is in charge of the crimes against persons unit in the Fort Wayne police department.
“One day they’re going to hear a knock at their door. If it’s not me, it will be someone else and be prepared, because you’re going to pay for the crime. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
DeJesus said people downloading child pornography in Fort Wayne happens more often than we realize, but it’s a crime they work hard to combat.
“We’re just scratching the surface. For every one case we get a conviction out of, there’s probably a dozen more out there,” DeJesus said.
A tip to the department lead to the Gross arrests on Thursday. According to court documents, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told police that more than 500 files of apparent child pornography had been downloaded. After investigating, officers served a search warrant at a house and collected several computers and electronic devices on Thursday morning. Forensic examinations of the devices found child porn on computers both Walter and Eric said were theirs, according to the probable cause affidavit. They both are charged with two felonies.
“It’s rewarding for the detectives who work those cases when they can make physical contact with the perpetrator because we know we’re doing our job and it’s working and when we get that guy and arrest him, granted there’s more out there, but at least we got one individual,” DeJesus said.
WANE also discovered that Walter Gross was caught with child pornography before. According to court records, in 2003, his wife called police when she found child pornography on their home computer. Gross admitted the images were his, according to the probable cause. The police investigation found more than 70,000 images on the computer, many of which were child pornography. Gross pleaded guilty to felony possession of child pornography in 2004 and received a suspended three-year sentence. He served three years on probation. The court records also show that in 2005, modifications were made to the probation rules to allow for his 16-year-old son to live with him on an “unsupervised” basis” while he was on probation. It’s not clear if that son is Eric Gross, who was just arrested for having child pornography, but the ages match up.
“He’s done it before. He knows he’s not supposed to do these things, but he continually does it,” DeJesus said. “This guy is a predator. He needs to go away.”
DeJesus has a message to all predators.
“You think you can hide? Once we identify you, we’re like sharks. We’re not going to quit,” he said.
Walter and Eric Gross were both in court Friday for initial hearings. They are scheduled to be back in court next Wednesday.