In late June, a Pennsylvania man named Jeffrey Harvey, 40, made arrangements to meet a 13-year-old child. The meeting never took place — the child was in fact an undercover federal agent. Authorities arrested Harvey. Held in a Lackawanna County jail, the man was charged with unlawfully contacting a minor as well as involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and statutory sexual assault.
More sinister still was what authorities say Harvey divulged after his arrest.
Investigators had cracked open what they alleged to be a secret group of child abusers, a pedophile ring or “network” that centered on a boy subject to repeated sexual abuse, the Pennsylvania Attorney General said in a statement. Some of the men involved wore animal costumes. On Friday, police arrested a 57-year-old man named Kenneth C. Fenske in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County. Fenske, prosecutors said, would dress up in a red fox suit at “furry parties” before allegedly raping the young victim.
“Furries” are members of a subculture who take on identities based on anthropomorphic animals, called fursonas. It may involve wearing mascot-like costumes. The attorney general’s office noted that a subset of furries do so as a “sexual fetish.”
“This is a horrendous case,” Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, said in a statement released Sunday. “It is deeply disturbing to me not only as Attorney General of Pennsylvania, but as a father of young children.”
Harvey informed authorities that he had told another man, David Parker, 38, about the plans to meet the 13-year-old in June, according to the Bucks County probable cause affidavit obtained by Lehigh Valley newspaper the Morning Call.
Parker, who was apprehended the day after Harvey, described performing sexual acts on a victim born in 2001, according to an affidavit. Parker’s first attempts at abuse may have occurred when the boy was as young as 2 or 3, the Morning Call reported. Parker faced charges of child rape, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said, and counts that also included the possession of child pornography.
Beginning in 2009, Parker would transport the boy to a house, where, as the victim described, men donned full-body animal costumes. The boy, now 14, noted that Fenske’s fox costume consisted of “full long sleeves and pants, a zipper in the back, paw gloves, and a fox head with pointy ears,” the Associated Press reported. Fenske told others to call him by the name “Lupine” while he was in the fox suit. The child, meanwhile, was made to dress in a Tony the Tiger outfit.
This was “a group of criminals who cared only about their gratification,” Shapiro said, according to the AP. “They cared nothing about this young boy.”
The sexual abuse began in 2009, prosecutors said, and occurred multiple times over a seven- or eight-year period.
In November, police arrested two other men allegedly involved in the ring. Craig Knox, 35, was caught during a raid on his Virginia home. Parker had transported a 9-year-old boy to Knox’s house in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said, where Knox and Parker abused the child.
Knox had moved from Pennsylvania, as he said in an interview with WRIC 8 News from jail, “to get away from all that negativity that surrounded me out there.” Knox told news anchor Kristin Smith that he was sexually attracted to young boys and dogs. Knox’s roommate in Virginia, Stephen M. Taylor, was also arrested during the raid.
“I came to the door and I saw a mass of police and other vehicles with blue lights,” Debra Kendall, one of Knox’s neighbors, told NBC 12 in November. “I heard them break the door in and I heard the young man [Stephen Taylor] yell at his roommate, ‘What have you done?’ That was Craig.”
Taylor was charged with bestiality and animal abuse; a warrant for Taylor’s arrest indicated that he had sexual contact with a dog, NBC 12 reported.
“You think you’ve heard it all on this job, and you never have,” said Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, according to the AP.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said that Fenske would abuse the boy at furry parties; according to the affidavit, Fenske took the boy upstairs from the party, undressed him and forced him to have sex, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. This occurred on possibly three or four occasions.
(Many furries argue that the media has, during the past two decades, overplayed the sexual aspect of the subculture. Only about 15 percent of furries own full fur costumes, and even fewer say they are sexually attracted to stuffed or cartoonish animals. One of the few social psychologists to study furries, Niagara County Community College’s Kathleen Gerbasi, told the BBC in 2009 that, “for most, the furry fandom is a hobby,” likening it to “ ‘Star Trek’ fans or such.”)
One of the men in the ring was reportedly a relative of the boy, who had been living with a grandmother, reported the AP. Shapiro said the boy was currently “receiving appropriate care,” through therapy and a foster guardian. He has slowly revealed information about the child abuse to investigating agent Dan Block.
Fenske, whose bail was set at $750,000, was arraigned in Bucks County. The AP reported that he posted bail; it was unclear whether Fenske had an attorney.
Prosecutors said there could be more suspects involved. “Our investigation is not done,” Shapiro said, “and it is likely there will be more arrests. We believe it is likely there could be more victims out there from this ring of abuse. We want to help them and protect them from any further abuse.” He asked that members of the public contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office or the district attorney’s office in Bucks County if they have more information.
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