A 31-year-old Alva woman who took photos of herself naked with her unclothed children pleaded guilty today, admitting she emailed photos of them performing sex acts to a Michigan man.
Candice Marie Miller, of the 1600 block of Linwood Avenue, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers to possessing child pornography and two counts each of transporting child pornography and producing child pornography involving her children, ages 9 and 13.
The man, Steven Demink, 41, a car salesman from Redford Township, called himself Dalton St. Clair and posed as a caring psychologist and good-looking single father, posting headshots of male models as himself. He persuaded single mothers across the country to sexually assault their children as a form of therapy and to send him the photos.
In February, he pleaded guilty to six sexual exploitation charges. Seven others were dropped as part of a plea agreement involving Miller and two mothers in New Hampshire and Idaho. Demink faces 15 years to life in federal prison when he’s sentenced in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Aug. 3.
He wasn’t prosecuted for cases involving four mothers in Indiana, Georgia, Illinois and Oregon, but the crimes can be used against him at sentencing.
Miller faces a minimum-mandatory term of 15 years and up to 30 for the production charges, the highest counts. She also faces a $250,000 fine on each when she’s sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Steele. No date has been set.
Her federal public defender, Martin DerOvanesian, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Yolande Viacava; it’s the policy of that office not to comment until after sentencing.
Court records in both cases provide this account:
Miller took photos of her children and emailed them to Demink, whom she’d met on singleparentmeet.com, an Internet chatroom. He was interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force in September after a tip from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho.
Court records show Demink, who claimed to be the father of a 14-year-old girl, targeted single mothers, promising some a date if they emailed him photos of them engaging in sex acts with their kids or to let him watch by webcam.
He connected with at least seven mothers from April 2009 until last September. Their children ranged in age from 3 to 15.
“Demink intimated to these women that the result of the therapy would be healthier children,” his plea agreement says.
A review of his computer showed numerous emails from Miller’s Yahoo account from March 17, 2010, to April 14, 2010. They showed more than 100 images of two children naked together and touching each other, and a nude Miller performing a sex act on one.
Federal agents located Miller, who agreed to talk and admitted taking and sending photos for “only a few weeks.”
“But then she said that she had stopped because she knew that it was wrong,” court documents say. “... She said that the person she had met over the Internet had claimed to have a PhD in psychology and told her that touching her son would bring him closer to her.”
She told investigators the man was persistent, asked for more photos and his requests were very explicit.
“She claimed that she never intended to cause harm to her children,” the records say. “... She admitted that she would tell the children how to pose for the camera and she took the nude photos.”
On Oct. 5, Miller let Lee County Sheriff’s deputies and Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers search her house. Reports show they found about 1,000 pornographic images and she was arrested. She’s been held in the Lee County jail since, unable to post bail.
Miller told investigators she’d studied psychology in college for three years.
The case was investigated as part of Project Safe Childhood, which the U.S. Department of Justice started five years ago to fight child sexual exploitation, and to identify and rescue victims. In this case, 13 children were rescued and six mothers were arrested; an Oregon mother of an 8-year-old autistic boy was not arrested.