20 years ago this week, the FBI launched a new initiative aimed at catching child predators, using agents on computers to track pedophiles sharing pornography on the internet.
It is a task force that came together as Prince George's County police investigated the disappearance of Junior Burdynski and its possible connection with a ring of pedophiles.
The FBI has long credited the disappearance of the 10-year-old with the creation of innocent images.
It is an FBI task force that has now grown to 66 offices throughout the United States.
Burdynski has never been found, but in his memory, task force members spend countless hours every day hunting down people who exploit boys and girls for sex.
In the first few days after Burdynski vanished from his Brentwood neighborhood in May of 1993, police began looking into the relationship between a man named James Kowalski and some of Burdynski’s friends.
Police suspected Kowalski might have something to do with his disappearance and they said so in a court affidavit.
But until recently, investigators had not acknowledged a direct connection.
As FOX 5 first reported Monday night, Prince George's County police have obtained videotapes, apparently recorded by Kowalski, in which Burdynski appears, but never in a sexual manner.
"On Kowalski specifically, what more do you have to lose at this point?” said Burdynski’s sister, Virginia. “Why wouldn't you tell? Why wouldn't you give us peace after so long? He was a ten years old at the time. He was a child.”
Kowalski is serving life in prison for molesting boys. He has never been charged in connection with Junior’s disappearance.
But from Kowalski's case and the search for Junior, the FBI has grown a task force with an assignment to find child predators.
"We get tips through a number of means,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jacqueline Maguire. “Through citizen complaints, through referrals from other law enforcement, and through tips and referrals from internet service providers. And we also have a close relationship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and we have personnel who are out there full time.”
And as the internet grows, so does the challenge.
"Just this year, the Innocent Images National Initiative has over 600 arrests of child predators and individuals who are engaged in child sexual exploitation,” said Maguire.
Virginia Burdynski was just five years old when her brother disappeared. And the pain of it all sits just below the surface.
"Right now I miss being able to hear his voice,” she said. “I can't remember his voice. I can't hear his voice. I can't see him. All I have is my pictures. I just want to hear his voice and give him a hug.”
After all these years, Virginia and her family have not given up hope. With no tangible proof Junior is dead, they continue to hold on the possibility Junior was kidnapped and is still alive somewhere.
This Friday night, the anniversary of his disappearance, Virginia and her family are asking everyone to leave a porch light on for a 10-year-old who never came home.
Meantime, if you want to follow the case and join in on the hope for answers, go to Facebook and "Like" the page called "Justice for Junior.”
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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