They stumbled upon a child porn ring, then did nothing
‘The most secretive system’
Brett Kelman, The Desert Sun
John David Yoder, a Desert Hot Springs child porn suspect, looks at the camera during a court appearance on Feb. 19. Six weeks before Yoder was arrested, social workers found pictures of boys posing in their underwear while inspecting Yoder’s home.
(Photo: Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun)
The tip came in six days before Christmas. Someone called a child abuse hotline, reporting that a parent in Desert Hot Springs was molesting two boys. The caller said the man also kept pictures of boys posing in their underwear on his computer.
And so, as it often does, Riverside County sent social workers to investigate the man, a licensed foster parent. He lived in a two-bedroom house with two adopted sons, a preteen boy for whom he was seeking guardianship, and a neighborhood teenager who had moved in after an argument with his parents.
When questioned, the children denied the abuse. But the tipster, it seemed, had been at least half right. Searching the man’s computer, social workers found two photos of children, unrelated to the parent, posing in their underwear. The pictures had been taken by one of the foster parent’s friends, one of the boys said. Sometimes they spent time with that friend, the boy said.
To these social workers, these underwear pictures were concerning, but they were not concerning enough. Social workers classified the investigation as “inconclusive,” then closed their inquiry, according to Riverside County court documents.
The boys were left in the man’s home. His foster license was left intact.
Today, that same parent, John David Yoder, sits behind bars, a suspect in what officials have called one of the worst child pornography rings in Southern California in recent years. Yoder and three other suspects have been accused of victimizing as many as 15 children in Desert Hot Springs, including some of the boys that lived with him. Yoder was arrested in February as result of a separate investigation by law enforcement in Nevada. The charges he now faces are nearly identical to the allegations that were reported to the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services shortly before Christmas.
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John David Yoder: ‘I have been falsely accused’
John David Yoder, a suspect in a high-profile Desert Hot Springs child pornography ring, says county prosecutors are targeting him without evidence because he is gay.
Yoder made this claim in a jailhouse letter sent to The Desert Sun this month. The letter, which spans five handwritten pages, is the first time that Yoder has spoken publicly since his arrest in February.
“It is my belief that I am being unjustly scrutinized beyond the scope of reason because I am a homosexual,” Yoder wrote to the newspaper.
“I have been falsely accused,” Yoder added.
Yoder also wrote that he could not have committed the crimes he is accused of because his home was “buzzing” with therapists, social workers and lawyers due to his status as a foster parent. Finally, Yoder chastises the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting him by convening a grand jury, a court proceeding that does not allow him to defend himself.
The DA’s office declined to comment on Yoder’s letter on Tuesday.
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