When authorities found his Honda a month later, they discovered images of child pornography, possibly taken when Toth worked as a counselor at an all boys summer camp in Wisconsin from 2004 to 2006.
There was also a suicide note saying Toth’s body could be found in a nearby lake. Authorities searched but found nothing. They concluded that Toth had faked his death.
His trail was cold. It was his first disappearing act.
The altruistic ascetic
David Bussone told people that he was turning his back on a world of privilege when he arrived at a Phoenix homeless shelter and resource center in 2009. He said he was once an educator at an elite East Coast school but wanted to re-dedicate his life to the downtrodden.
“He gave us the impression that he was disgusted with the wealth he was working with,” said Jessica Berg, executive director of the Lodestar Day Resource Center. “He wanted to do something differently.”
Bussone told people that he had taken a five-year vow of poverty. He would live like many of the people he served — in the shelter. The FBI thinks Bussone was Toth’s alias.
Berg described Bussone as quiet and respectful. He went about his mission to serve and soon became a trusted volunteer.
Bussone was particularly adept at calming clients who were upset, Berg said. He volunteered on 12-step program retreats for the homeless.
As Berg was being interviewed by phone on a recent day, she remembered that she had kept an unopened letter addressed to Bussone and flipped through papers until she found it.
She opened the envelope to find a book from a Catholic organization about devoting yourself to prayer for redemption. Berg thought for a moment and then offered her take on Toth.
“I do feel like he wanted to figure out how to redeem himself in some way,” Berg said. “Maybe his five-year vow of poverty and his work here” were “a way of doing it.”
If so, it was work that was left undone. Starting in 2009, “America’s Most Wanted” aired segments on Toth. His image flashed on television sets across the country.
Berg said one of Lodestar’s clients saw the piece.
Her recollection was fuzzy, but, she said, either the client confronted Bussone, saying he looked like Toth, or word got back to Bussone that a client had started asking questions about whether he was the fugitive.
Either way, Berg said, Bussone disappeared the next day.
‘An open agenda’
Gracie Braun met the man who would become the Austin tech writer at the Rainbow Gathering in New Mexico in July 2009. The colorful events at the gathering are a vestige of ’60s counterculture, aimed at creating an alternative to capitalism and consumerism for a few days.
Items are bartered. Meals are shared. Braun recalls meeting the man in a communal kitchen. He was well-spoken, intelligent and observant. Braun said she appreciated his helpfulness.