Tampa Bay columnists
Mary Jo Melone
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Youth leader faces sex charges
By ANGELA MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 22, 2000
TAMPA -- For almost 30 years, Marvin Cooper Thompson Jr. was considered by neighbors on Norfolk Street as a bit odd, but nevertheless a doting son so close to his mother that he never left home.
At the neighborhood church he and his mother attended, Thompson was a dedicated, active member; he played saxophone in the church band, drove the seniors group around in the church bus and contributed cookie and cake recipes to the cookbook.
Primarily, he led a boys-only youth group called the Royal Rangers. He took the boys on picnics, parties and camp-outs.
Through the Rangers, Tampa police said Wednesday, Thompson met most of the young boys he molested over the past 30 years, each time taking a naked snapshot to remember the youngster .
Thompson's secret life was revealed Wednesday. By the end of the day, he was held without bail in jail, charged with five counts of capital sexual battery on a child under 12 and four counts of a lewd and lascivious act on a child under 12.
Detectives expect their investigation to lead to more charges.
It all started when Thompson, 52, failed to pay the rent on a storage unit at A-AAA Storage on E Busch Boulevard, detectives said. The company auctioned off the contents, sight unseen, to the highest bidder. The man who bought Thompson's junk found a book published in 1966 called Boys Will Be Boys, which detectives said is not pornographic, but falls into a category called child erotica.
Inside the book were 10-year-old snapshots: two of Thompson naked from the waist down and one of a completely naked young boy, detectives said. The man called Tampa police, who referred the case to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Al Danna.
"Nude photos alone are not enough to arrest someone for anything," Danna said. "But those gave us enough probable cause to get a search warrant for his house."
Thompson was home when FDLE agents and police came to 1319 E Norfolk Ave., the cluttered, small house he shared with his mother until she died two years ago. When they read him his rights and confronted him with the photos, he showed them hundreds more from over 30 years of what Danna called his "obsession with young boys."
"There were hundreds of pictures, some of them in photo albums, some of them labeled with the name and date," Danna said. "A lot of them are grown men now and he doesn't know where they are, but he knew all the names. We're going to do a lot of background work to find these kids now and find out what they remember."
There is no statute of limitations on sexual battery for a child younger than 12 when the offense includes penetration, Danna said.
Danna said most of the abuse happened at Thompson's home, but that boys were also fondled on Royal Rangers camping trips. The boys were all younger than 12, Danna said.
At this point, Thompson has been charged in the sexual battery of two boys ages 5 and 8. He did not meet the boys through Royal Rangers, Danna said.
Thompson's neighbor, Mike Ryan, said his parents used to go to church with Thompson and his mother. Ryan's parents told him that Thompson quit leading the Rangers about a year ago but still attends church faithfully.
"My mother knew his mother really well, and she was always trying to make excuses for him," Ryan said. "I always thought he was strange, but she would always tell me, "Oh, he's just a mother's boy.' '
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.