SAN FRANCISCO – Despite being arrested at least nine times for molesting boys, Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller (search) managed to avoid lengthy prison terms, coach youth football, move in with another convicted sex offender — and be named by authorities as one of the most prolific child molesters in history.
Schwartzmiller's criminal record began 35 years ago, but he never registered as a sex offender and spent just 12 years in prison. In his time on the outside, police suspect he molested children as many as 36,000 times in several states, Mexico and Brazil.
Wily, charismatic and "smarter than heck," is how James Kevan (search), one of his defense lawyers in the mid-1970s, described Schwartzmiller on Friday. "He could write up legal documents better than most lawyers."
Often defending himself in court, Schwartzmiller got two of his four convictions overturned, even though the Idaho Supreme Court (search) called him a repeat offender who "uses his intelligence to take advantage of the weak and oppressed and those who are in need."
With Schwartzmiller, 63, being held without bail on charges involving two San Jose boys, police and the FBI are trying to retrace his movements over the last 30 years.
A search of Schwartzmiller's San Jose home turned up spiral-bound notebooks with notes on more than 36,000 encounters with children, in categories such as "Blond Boys," "Cute Boys" and "Boys who say no" — together with codes appearing to indicate how he abused them, San Jose Police Lt. Scott Cornfield said.
Messages left for Schwartzmiller's public defender last week were not returned.
In court records released Friday, authorities said Schwartzmiller lived for five years with another convicted sex offender whom he met in jail — Freddie Everts, 34. The pair allegedly lured boys to their home with gifts including skateboards, video games and a motor bike.
Everts said Schwartzmiller claimed to be dying from an undisclosed illness and was keeping notes on his "encounters with boys" for a manuscript, according to court records. Everts is in jail on charges he failed to register as a sex offender.
Kevan — the former attorney who was later disbarred — after having drug problems, he says — said he knew Schwartzmiller as Tim Miller, one of his dozen or so aliases, when they both lived in Mountain Home, Idaho, a small town near the Sawtooth Mountains.
When they first met, Schwartzmiller was coaching a youth football team. "I helped him coach," Kevan said. "The parents all thought he was great. No one suspected a thing."
In retrospect, there were signs something was wrong — like the time he took the team to a game in Boise, and they "stopped in the desert to do a jock strap check." Kevan said he was not on the bus at the time, and only later realized that Schwartzmiller may have been picking out potential victims.
By that point, Schwartzmiller had already been convicted of molesting boys. His record appears to date back to 1970, when he was convicted in Alaska of lewd and lascivious conduct with three teen boys. He was sentenced to two years' probation, then indicted again two years later for molesting another boy — but he apparently fled the state before he could be tried.
Over the years, Schwartzmiller was convicted of molestation charges at least four times, but was acquitted once and avoided prosecution on other charges. When he first came to authorities' attention, there were no Megan's Laws or three-strikes laws, and Americans were less aware of the ramifications and the severity of child sexual abuse.
He called on Kevan for help when he was facing trial in Idaho in the 1970s on charges he molested two 13-year-old boys.
"I said, 'You've got to tell me what's going on.' He told me everything," Kevan said — outlining a history of molesting boys from Alaska down the West Coast.
Even then, Schwartzmiller had been keeping notebooks of his victims, with "a couple hundred" boys' names, followed by numbers that described each boy's anatomy, Kevan said.
"The investigators didn't know what they meant. They didn't even take them," Kevan said. "I told him to get rid of them."
Mountain Home Police Capt. Dave Pursell, who was on the force at the time, said he had no information about the notebooks. But he remembers Schwartzmiller well.
"He brought several suits against the sheriff here, and against the state and against anybody and everybody. In Idaho statutes there's a lot of case law related to Mr. Schwartzmiller."
Schwartzmiller spent about two years in prison on the Idaho charges before he appealed his conviction to the Idaho Supreme Court and won in 1978. The following year two 14-year-old boys said he molested them and he fled again — this time to Oregon, where he was arrested again, accused of bringing a boy from Little Rock, Ark., to San Francisco in June 1980. Authorities said Schwartzmiller had forced the boy into prostitution.
But the U.S. Attorney's office deferred prosecution to authorities in Idaho, where he served another six years in prison for molesting boys. By that time, Kevan had been disbarred, so he hired another attorney, Lance Churchill, who now works for a real estate company in Boise.
"He was famous as one of the best prison lawyers in Idaho," Churchill said. "He was respected because if an inmate needed help in a legal case, he would help them out. If he saw an injustice he would try to help the inmate. He was pretty well-liked out there."
In the years after Schwartzmiller was set free in 1987, he was arrested at least four more times for abusing children. He served three more years in Oregon, got out, was repeatedly arrested for violating parole and allegedly abusing other children, won an acquittal in Washington state, and fled rather than face arrest on another warrant in Oregon.
Joan Cavagnaro, the deputy prosecutor who tried the Washington case, said she had no doubt about Schwartzmiller's guilt, though she had no evidence like that found in the notebooks. Child abuse cases can be difficult to prosecute, Cavagnaro said, particularly when suspects target victims from troubled homes.
"Touching does not leave physical evidence," she said. "So you have one person's word against another and in the context of chaotic, dysfunctional family settings, this makes it a very difficult crime to prove."