Graphic snapshots found in a trash bin near a Whittier motel touched off an intense search Thursday for a man and a little girl he was photographed molesting, police said.
The child appears to be 4 to 6 years old, said Lt. Don Desmaretz of the Whittier Police Department, and her face can be clearly seen in several of the 12 instant-camera snapshots. The man is shown only from the shoulders down, making identification more difficult, Desmaretz said.
The pictures were discovered Wednesday night by a longtime resident of the Lambert Inn in south Whittier who was sifting through the trash bin looking for cigarette coupons. The photos were in a envelope and in good condition, Desmaretz said. He said police were able to get fingerprints from the snapshots and were attempting to match them through the state’s computerized identification system.
“They graphically depict sexual acts,” Desmaretz said of the photos.
The girl appears to be white, with dark, shoulder-length straight hair, bangs and dark eyes.
In addition to checking the fingerprints, police are examining the motel’s registration records and circulating the child’s description through newspapers and television and radio stations, he said.
Efforts to get court permission to release the photographs, however, were denied Thursday by a Juvenile Court judge, who instructed police to exhaust all other possibilities first.
State law prohibits the dissemination of pictures showing sex with children, but Los Angeles police won court permission in October to release photos in a similar case, even though the child in those photographs was recognizable.
In that case, pictures found on a street in Los Angeles’ Koreatown showed a 3-year-old girl apparently being sexually abused by a man and a woman, both of whose faces were shown clearly.
Within days of the photos’ release, a man and woman were arrested and charged with several counts of sexual molestation of a child. They are awaiting trial in San Bernardino County, where both lived. Each is being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
Whittier police said they hoped to get similar results by publicizing the photos found in their city. However, Desmaretz said the judge was reluctant to allow distribution of the photos because they clearly depict only the child and not her assailant.