Her parents sent her to Catholic schools, and her mother, a retired district judge, now jokes that she wants her money back.Her daughter’s beat is in the vilest corners of cyberspace, in chat rooms indicating “fetish” or various subgenres of flagrant peccancy.The goal was to identify the latter, hook them, and then reel them in, turn them into “travelers.” Once a traveler took that all-important step out of fantasy and into the real world, his behavior went from the merely immoral to the overtly criminal.When they delivered themselves for the promised rendezvous, instead of meeting a mother and her young daughters they would find a team of well-armed, cheerfully disgusted Delaware County police officers.One of the many false identities Deery has assumed online is something truly rare, even in this polluted pond—that of a middle-aged mother of two pre-pubescent girls who is offering them up for sex.Baiting her hook with this forbidden fruit, she would cast the line and wait to see who bit. Men began vying for her attention the minute she logged on, night or day.As a fantasy, her come-on seemed overbaked—not one daughter, but two!It is doubtful that such a woman exists anywhere, and yet men fell for it. The bulletin board over her desk displays mug shots of her catches, very ordinary-looking men, facing the camera wide-eyed with shock, staring at the fresh ruin of their lives. One of the stunned faces in that array belongs to a man I will call “J,” who would spend a year in prison after taking Deery’s bait.
He was excited to see on-screen that this woman, calling herself heatherscutiepies, lived in his state, Pennsylvania, and was 39 years old.She knew nothing of his cybersex life, or if she did, she ignored it.A burly, round-faced man of 42, with a thickly muscled neck and shoulders, thinning hair, and a goatee, he was seated before the computer in their living room in a small, two-story town house in suburban Philadelphia.As Jad, one of the policemen in the movie version, says, “We’re more like clergy than cops.”Bingo! The line popped up in a window at the top of J’s screen as soon as he logged in to the chat room.He had peeked into a number of active chats to see how many women were there, and logged on to the ones with a promising ratio.Deery would begin a dialogue, dangling the illicit possibility, gauging how serious her mark was.There were “players,” those who were just horny and despicable, and there were doers, or at least potential doers, the true bad guys.Both the policewoman and her target give the author their versions of the truth, in a case that challenges the conventional wisdom about online sexual predators, and blurs the lines among crime, “intent,” and enticement.Detective Michele Deery works in a cubicle in the basement of the Delaware County courthouse, in Media, Pennsylvania.He had immediately tapped her with three messages, and she had responded: The sun blazed in from the window to his back porch.J had about an hour before his wife would be home from work.