Feb 13, 2004 – Madison, WI Area
James Perry, known as "The Mall Rapist," committed dozens of sexual attacks against children and young women. He stalked them in the malls and shopping center parking lots, meticulously planned when and where to attack, specializing in petite young women working alone in strip malls and shopping centers around Madison.
A jury never got to hear the evidence against Perry, he plead guilty. First in federal court and then in Dane County court. He told investigators there were many times over the years he wanted to turn himself in, but claimed he did not want to abandon his family.
Pieces of evidence were mounting since 1998, yet none could be connected to an identifiable face, until a pedophile whose home had just been raided in New York outed the construction foreman and Stoughton father.
“We got the call at 4:30 p.m. and by midnight we were serving warrants on his house”
Perry yelled, “I love you” to his wife then let them in. Agents seized computer equipment and large numbers of pictures.
The most chilling discoveries came in the basement -- hidden in crawl spaces agents first found a safe, then a makeshift grave. It was feared it might have been a homicide scene. But in the safe were more than 120 CD-ROMs on which Perry recorded sex crimes, including many where he roamed toy store aisles with a spy camera, masturbating on children whose parents had left them for just minutes.
There are also clothes. Costumes or lingerie specifically designed for young girls to wear.
Agents also recovered videos that Perry and the New York suspect made together, while molesting children in Madison area hotels.
The grave also contained animal bones. Perry denied any knowledge of why the bones were there.
Detectives learned Perry had become a chameleon, changing his appearance and tactics as their dragnet expanded. He told detective Wall he began grooming and assaulting children in an effort to stay below their radar.
"It was not about sex for him," said Madison detective Maureen Wall. "It was about the thrill of the hunt. It was about the adrenaline rush."
He terrorized four states -- Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Texas -- fondling, raping, then distributing video of his attacks in the dark world of Internet porn.
Typical of the way Perry operated. He had walked into an open shop during business hours, wearing a baseball cap, raped a woman at knifepoint and then was seen driving away in a red pickup truck..
They were happening about the rate of every two to four days in February of 2000
By August 2000, the Mall Rapist was connected to more than 20 sexual assaults in strip mall parking lots and shopping centers around Madison.
Perry was becoming increasingly bold in his attacks. "He would walk right past security cameras, look into the face of the security camera and walk right in and perpetrate a rape in a store. He told us later, 'I knew that most of those cameras are dummies.' And that was really frustrating to us because he was, in fact, absolutely correct."
Perry's videos. "It was unbelievable and eye-poppingly, stunningly shocking to us to look at these videos and see Perry walking through these stores, following these mothers and fathers who have their children with them. And the minute they leave their child alone in an aisle looking at the dollies or looking at the books, Perry moves in like a shark."
Even knowing his victims' parents were in the same store -- sometimes just an aisle away he attacked. Often, the children never made any noise or attempted to fight back.
Suddenly in 2003, the "Mall Rapist" attacks stopped in Madison. Perry, worried about getting caught, had shifted his focus to the children in his own suburban neighborhood. And he spent hours on Internet child porn sites and chat rooms.
On this last return to the street, Perry would meet his final target, 13-year-old Cassie Chivers, who was with her family at a Comfort Inn hotel in Madison. Cassie broke free and began to scream out, then ran away from Perry. Her family and friends rushed toward her and took her into the hotel. Cassie's father, the Rev. Charlie Chivers, said he told his daughter, " 'If I was you, I'd kick, scream, fight and make noise. I'd do whatever I could to draw attention, because chances are he's going to shoot you anyway.' "
In Atlanta, FBI agents were monitoring Internet chat room conversations between men eager to arrange dates to have sex with children. That investigation led agents to the arrest of Thomas Redeker in upstate New York. In his house, FBI agents found a videotape showing Redeker and another man engaging in sexual activity with a young child. Redeker admitted that the other man was Perry.
A team of 17 FBI agents and local police surrounded Perry's house in Madison. Agents discovered 121 CDs containing hours of child pornography and in the basement safe they found dozens of pictures of young children he had stalked. Most were shot from the waist down, from behind. Almost all were of pre-teen girls. He stalked them at the county fair, at a public pool in mall parking lots, the supermarket and in the aisles at mall stores.
James Perry, now 36, was sentenced in November 2004 to 470 years in prison for creating child pornography, rape, child sexual assault and kidnapping. It is the longest sentence for sex crimes in Wisconsin history.
"I would call them stalking photographs. Often there weren't faces involved, but they were focused on various parts of a woman's, or young girl's anatomy, and just packs of photos were just throughout the house."
James D. Perry (Born Mar 4, 1970)