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    Man's assertions land him in jail in sex abuse case

    He boasted of being a pedophile, and police say he informed them he had child porn on his computer.

    By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 24, 2002


    TEMPLE TERRACE -- On his Web site, Steven Schurgard called himself "a full-fledged pedophile."

    He hung out at a local roller skating rink with kids and kept photos of shirtless young boys in his home, police said.

    The 33-year-old man also used the Internet to boldly defend his sexual preferences. "I am very proud of the fact that I was able to express myself so freely," he wrote on his Web site, which has since been shut down. "I had thoughts inside me that had to be released. . . . I hope I have entertained, educated and encouraged my fellow boy lovers."

    And, detectives said, Schurgard knew the law.

    "This guy is smart enough to know that he has freedom of speech," said agent Al Danna of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    But Schurgard's honesty may have led to his arrest.

    On June 4, when Temple Terrace police tried to confront him about sending potentially threatening e-mails to his family in another state, Schurgard answered the door with a gun tucked in the waist of his pants. He threatened the officers and then informed them that he had child pornography on his computer, police said.

    He wasn't lying, said Temple Terrace police Capt. Tracy Mishler. Officers found a computer, videotapes and photos of young boys posing in sexual situations, he said.

    Schurgard, who had been living with his mother in Temple Terrace, was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography. The case was then turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which discovered that the children in the photos lived in Town 'N Country near Schurgard's old apartment.

    The FDLE investigation led to the interviews of dozens of children, and seven more charges against Schurgard, including sexual battery of a child and use of a child in a sexual performance. He may face other charges because investigators aren't finished scrutinizing Schurgard's computer.

    Agent Danna interviewed Schurgard in the Hillsborough County Jail, where he is being held without bail. Schurgard had no prior arrest record in Florida.

    Schurgard said his Web site was "all a big joke," the agent said.

    Danna said that interviews with children in Schurgard's former apartment complex revealed that he used to give boys gifts, hold sleepovers and ask older teenage boys to bring younger boys back to his apartment.

    "It is not normal for a single, adult male to have children socializing with him all the time," said Danna.

    The detective also talked to a young boy who said that Schurgard assaulted him. The boy's statement led to the sexual battery charge.

    "He had children coming in and out of his place," said Danna. "Law enforcement never got a call complaining about him."

    One national child advocacy group said it told the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI about Schurgard's Web site a year and a half ago.

    "This guy presented himself as a predator," said Wendell Krueth, the president of Predator Hunter, a national nonprofit organization that tracks suspected child molesters.

    But Danna said that information never reached the FDLE. Temple Terrace police said the same. And even though Schurgard declared that he was a pedophile, there was little authorities could have done with just that information.

    "Saying you're a pedophile . . . doesn't open the door for a search warrant," said Danna. "You need witnesses and victims."

    Schurgard, who also posted numerous messages on electronic bulletin boards discussing pedophilia before he was arrested, once tried to explain his predilection for young boys.

    "It's not as if I volunteered to be a weirdo," wrote Schurgard. "I've got no choice but to play the cards that God, Mother Nature, (or whoever) dealt me. No, I wasn't molested when I was a kid. I just guess I was given the gift of being able to see life in a different perspective than most. Am I normal and everyone else is sick? I doubt it."

    -- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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