Colleagues knew the speaker under a different name as an Austin-based tech writer and computer technician they described as brilliant and friendly. But they now suspect that he is the same man who is accused of filming a sex act with a child while he was a teacher at the District’s exclusive Beauvoir school in 2007 or 2008.
They realized the night before the October speech that the tech writer had vanished. Calls and e-mails went unreturned. His Facebook page went dormant. They never saw him again.
His whereabouts remained a mystery until Toth, 31, was arrested in Nicaragua in April. Three people who saw arrest photos of the lanky man with long brown hair said he was the same person they knew from Austin. FBI officials declined to confirm their account. Toth’s attorney did not return a call for comment.
“My reaction was shock,” said Joel Stewart, one of the man’s former bosses at a computer repair store. “This was not an unlikable person. I think a lot of us came to think of him as something of a friend.”
During Toth’s five years on the run, the pattern played out again and again as the man the FBI says is an expert in social engineering and computers was able to invent fresh personas, allegedly obtain fraudulent documents and win the trust of unsuspecting people. When it appeared that he might be discovered, he would simply melt away.
All the while, the man, who authorities warned would not stop molesting children until he was caught, had contact with kids. The Washington Post has been able to reconstruct his time in hiding from the District to the Southwest to Latin America.
“It’s a case study in you never know who you are standing next to,” said Chris Bangs, who worked with the tech writer.
The small Beauvoir school educates the children of some of the most powerful people in the nation’s capital. U.S. senators, White House staffers and World Bank employees have sent their children there. Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth has served on the school’s governing board in the past.
Parents said Toth stood out among the school’s highly regarded educators. The third-grade teacher was adept at relating to his students and making them feel smart. When they needed help, he would sometimes tutor them for free. He babysat others.
But along with the dedication, Toth had quirks: He slept nights in his classroom closet and dried socks on the school’s windowsills. He also spent nights at some children’s homes.
Toth’s reputation imploded at the end of the 2008 school year. A Beauvoir employee discovered images on a camera assigned to him that a federal prosecutor would later say were “any parent’s nightmare.”
An arrest warrant on possession of child pornography was issued for him in federal court in the District. He was later indicted in Maryland in the production of child pornography. Charging documents said he produced a video of himself touching a child at a Maryland home in 2007 or 2008. The child was younger than 14.