GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) - A mother’s intuition was right on the money about accused child molester Randy Wesson nearly three years ago when she met him.
“It’s a voice to listen to, and I always tell my son, always listen to that voice, said Maria Panagopoulos. “It sends chills up your spine.”
She was alarmed when Wesson, a Sea Life Aquarium employee in Grapevine a the time, picked up her 4-year-old son without her permission. The 28-year-old, who has now admitted to sexually abusing more than 100 children, also handed Panagopoulos a card with his contact information on it.
“He gave us a behind-the-scenes tour, which we took. Nothing seemed inappropriate. Just that moment, it just felt really weird,” said Panagopoulos. “In my head, all I heard was, ‘I want to molest your son,’” she said about Wesson’s offer to babysit.
Panagopoulos said Wesson also told her he had experience working with Church Youth Ministries. He also made several suspicious statements to his coworkers about clergy accusing him of inappropriate behavior with children, according to Grapevine police records.
Panagopoulos emailed the aquarium about her concerns that day. The company quickly contacted police and suspended Wesson. He resigned two days later. Police said they didn’t find a criminal record for Wesson then, and the case was closed.
“I really don’t care that they called me a helicopter mom because this is what happened. I saved my son from a predator. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In the end, it turned out to be the right thing,” said Panagopoulos.
Homeland Security Investigations is sifting through thousands of photos and videos from Wesson’s computer to determine the identity of any children involved in his pornography scheme.
They’re using facial recognition technology among other tactics.
“We utilize our traditional investigative methods and through forensic analysis or as we like to say through old-fashioned police work,” said Supervising Agent Matt Dunn.
Federal authorities urge any parents who think Wesson may have victimized their child to call Homeland Security Investigations at 1.866.DHS.2.ICE.
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