- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Forget the book club and the sob stories: A determined Oprah Winfrey has taken on crime. It took the FBI only 48 hours to nab a pair of child-predator suspects after the talk-show maven broadcast details about the fugitives and offered a hefty reward from her own purse for their capture.

She is receiving praise from the law-enforcement agency itself.

“This is highly effective and very appropriate,” said FBI spokesman Rex Tomb yesterday.

“The more you get the word out, the better it is, no matter what the case. Oprah Winfrey has a nationwide, very varied audience — and that’s ideal,” Mr. Tomb said.

On an Oct. 4 broadcast of her show, Miss Winfrey showed mug shots and information supplied by the FBI about William C. Davis and Niles Scott, both wanted by state authorities on multiple molestation and sex offense charges. She instructed her viewers to call their local FBI office if they recognized either man.

Scott was apprehended within 24 hours, and Davis was caught Oct. 6 after alert viewers recognized the men.

“It takes one phone call. And it takes courage,” Miss Winfrey said yesterday as she presented $100,000 of her own money to the two tearful North Dakota women who recognized Davis, who is wanted for molesting three boys in Indiana.

The simple method worked flawlessly. Viewer Jean Rosenthal spotted Davis in the lineup on the newly established “Oprah’s Child Predator Watch List” on the show’s Web site. She in turn called her friend Karie Miller, who was soon shocked to discover that Davis was renting her upstairs room.

The women called the local FBI office.

“It’s him, I knew it was him,” Mrs. Miller recounted. The mother of three added that Davis had called her from jail after his arrest, telling her, “I thought we were friends.”

Both women received a standing ovation from the studio audience.

Scott, wanted for rape, kidnapping and unlawful flight in Ohio, was recognized by an another viewer and apprehended by authorities in Belize.

“The reality is that there are 563,000 registered sex offenders in this country, mostly those committing crimes against children. At least 100,000 of them are missing, or not in compliance with the law,” said Ernie Allen, president of the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children yesterday (NCMEC) yesterday.

“The way these two offenders were caught is terrific. By using the power of the media and her own credibility and celebrity, Oprah Winfrey is shining light on a very complex problem that average Americans care about. And I applaud the FBI for partnering with her,” Mr. Allen said.

According to the NCMEC, one in five girls and one in 10 boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood, yet less than 35 percent of those child sexual assaults are reported to authorities. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in five children from 10 to 17 years old receive unwanted sexual solicitations online.

Miss Winfrey, 51, is driven by personal experience. Born to unmarried parents and raised in three different states by a paternal grandmother, then her mother and finally her father, Miss Winfrey was sexually abused by male relatives until she was 13.

Her new mission is just getting started.

“I can show you who these offenders are, but I need your help,” Miss Winfrey told her viewers yesterday, just prior to showcasing the photos and crime histories of eight other people charged with rape, pornography, abuse, battery and molestation.

“Childhood predators, they don’t wear signs. They look like nice people on the outside,” Miss Winfrey said. “But this is about seduction followed by molestation. That is what this country must understand.”

The predator’s watch will be updated each Friday, she added, and can be viewed with other information at www.oprah.com.

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