article

07.12.10

The Kids' Author Who Loved Child Porn

K.P. Bath wrote kids’ books. He was also a major consumer of kiddie porn. Winston Ross on a disgraced author’s disturbing fetish.

PORTLAND, Oregon—For the most part, the 19 reviews on Amazon.com of K.P. Bath’s children’s book, The Secret of Castle Cant, are glowing. “A fun read for everyone,” says one reader. “Splendid storytelling,” adds another. “Great for kids as well as adults.” “I couldn’t put it down.”

Then on Friday a couple of new reviews of the Portland author’s first novel found their way to the site, with a markedly different tone. “The author of this book was convicted of child pornography,” a reviewer wrote, adding an excerpt from news reports that Bath was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison for possessing kiddie porn. “Do you really want your money going into this guy’s pocket?”

After daytonflyer sent photographs, Bath made remarks such as “Must be nice to have kids,” and “I’m glad there are molesters out there.”

Bath’s publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, had a head start in managing the bad publicity; the imprint pulled the 51-year-old’s newest novel, Flip Side, after he was first arrested in April 2009 on federal charges of trafficking child pornography on the Internet.

What’s unexplained is how a guy who writes books designed to educate and illuminate the lives of grade schoolers spent a healthy portion of his free time consuming sexually exploitive images of them.

By all appearances, the quiet author conducted his foul deeds only in front of his computer terminal, and not the children’s library where he worked, or anywhere else he might have had an opportunity to interact with youngsters face-to-face. Bath pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing child pornography, which meant he avoided the stiffer penalties he faced if convicted on more serious charges of trafficking. He offered no apology in court except a letter complaining that government prosecutors wielded too much power over his punishment.

But really, a children’s author who peddles child porn? How twisted can you be? A closer look at the case and Bath's background reveals a recluse with no wife and kids of his own who volunteered in the children's wing of the county library—no doubt fueling his disturbing fetish.

“It never ceases to amaze and surprise me when people find a sexual attraction to children, and it’s disheartening a children’s author was involved,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman, who prosecuted Bath after federal Immigration, Customs and Enforcement officials came across graphic images and videos of children engaged in horrific, sadistic sex acts he collected and traded between 2006 and 2008.

Upon searching Bath’s home on June 13, 2008, federal agents seized a computer, two thumb drives, and a stack of DVDs rife with files depicting children being sexually abused while bound and gagged.

Using the screen named “Bugsworth,” Bath swapped his files with a Seattle man, username “Sickman69,” on the now-defunct “Google Hello” messaging service that allowed users to send and receive images so quickly and securely it had become a flea market for perverts, according to Sussman. (After several other users' arrests for child pornography throughout the U.S., Google shut the site down in 2008.)

In chat conversations with a 19-year-old college student who used the screen name “daytonflyer,” Bath asked what ages of children the Ohio teenager liked, to which daytonflyer responded “over 11-12ish.”

“That’s about my upper limit,” Bath responded.

After daytonflyer sent Bath photographs, Bath made remarks such as, “Must be nice to have kids,” and “I’m glad there are molesters out there.”

The case of a children’s book author being an avid child porn enthusiast may be extreme. But authorities say it’s all too common to find perpetrators with mainstream day jobs.

“It’s almost like they have alter egos. Most of them have family and friends who had no idea they were involved in this kind of stuff,” Sussman said. “It comes as a complete shock to everyone. Mr. Bath was kind of like that.”

He also wasn’t well-known enough to cause much of a ripple in the publishing world. Several Oregon children’s authors contacted by The Daily Beast last week said they’d never heard of Bath or the case. Bath's The Secret of Castle Cant is ranked No. 331,025 in book sales on Amazon's site. His other fairy tale-themed books have drawn roughly the same readership.

Born in Tipton, Indiana, Bath grew up in a small farming village on the Moldovan border, where his parents were laborers, according to a biography on the website www.goodreads.com. After high school, he worked several years as a machine operator in a local factory before earning a bachelor’s degree.

“He remains a bachelor to this day,” reads the biography.

Then, “finding few job opportunities for English majors, Bath next earned a master’s degree in creative writing, which left him even more unemployable,” the bio continues. “Penniless and alone, he turned to his pen. The result was his first novel, The Secret of Castle Cant.”

After buying a ukulele, “Bath entered a period of contented productivity,” the bio continues, and now lives with his cat, Sam Underfoot, in Portland. (It’s unclear who wrote the biography, though it reads as though it might well have been from the author himself. Bath’s own website has been shut down.)

Investigators uncovered no evidence to suggest he ventured into any face-to-face inappropriate interaction with kids—he called it "too damn risky, unfortunately.” But the Multnomah County Public Library immediately removed Bath from his volunteer post as a “Homework Helper” after being notified in June 2008 of the federal investigation. He had worked there since 2001, according to library spokesman Jeremy Graybill.

News of the allegations brought “horror and shock” to library officials, Graybill said. He added that there have been no complaints from patrons about Mr. Bath, who was “never in a situation where he was alone with children.”

Bath’s books are not overtly sexual, but there are scenes that give one pause, in light of his arrest. He writes of 13-year-old Jane Cedilla, “her fingers, blackened by silver polish, clutched at the loose folds of her nightshirt at the small of her back,” right before her friend walks in to discuss how corsets accentuate bosoms.

As child pornography junkies go, Bath was a medium-sized fish, Sussman said.

“He had more than your average ones I’ve seen, but was no record setter,” he said. “We’ve found guys who have collections exceeding a million images.”

That he successfully kept his kiddie porn hobby under wraps isn’t hard to imagine, Sussman added. Secrecy is key. “If you were a published children’s author, would you want the public to know you were trafficking in child porn?”

Winston Ross is a reporter for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon and a regular contributor to Newsweek.com.