- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Fairfax County police yesterday arrested a former girls soccer coach who is accused of videotaping members of his team while they changed out of their soccer clothes into bathing suits.

Ralph D. Shipler, 61, of the Franklin Farms area of western Fairfax, faces three felony charges of production of child pornography. Each carries a penalty of five to 20 years in prison, said Officer Courtney Young, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman.

Police say they searched Mr. Shipler’s home in the 3200 block of Ravenscraig Court on Monday and found several videotapes of naked children.

Mr. Shipler disappeared after agreeing to the search, and Fairfax police issued an alert for his car.

“This morning around 8:30, his lawyers contacted our representatives,” Officer Young said yesterday. “At about 10 a.m., he turned himself in at police headquarters.”

Police took Mr. Shipler to the hospital after noticing that he was injured. Officials did not give details about the injuries, but said they were not life-threatening.

Fairfax police were contacted about Mr. Shipler on Sept. 24 by the FBI after police in South Beaver Township, Pa., heard complaints from members of a nudist camp that they had seen a man filming children at the colony.

Mr. Shipler denied having a video camera when confronted by the Pennsylvania police, but he then produced a camera and several videotapes, according to police reports.

The South Beaver Township police released Mr. Shipler before realizing what was on the tapes. They then notified the FBI.

Mr. Shipler recently resigned as coach of the Herndon Force, a 13-and-under girls team, citing personal reasons.

Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, director of the family-advocacy division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said there are still dangers of children being exposed to predators, despite more background checks and closer looks now at people who work closely with children.

“One of the unfortunate things is that they’re very good at what they do,” she said. “They are individuals that for the most part can get into positions in which they’re being trusted by children.”

According to a search warrant, Mr. Shipler drilled a hole in his garage wall next to the bathroom and scraped the backing off a mirror so he could videotape the girls.

Police obtained the search warrant for his home and two personal computers Friday.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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