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With the help of social media, a fugitive accused of sex crimes involving children has been brought to justice.
“This case is what I’ve been talking about for years … One step ahead of the law, multiple victims, and the only reason his career was ended, because of you. You made the difference,” said John Walsh, who will profile the case of captured fugitive Johnny Napier this Sunday on his CNN series, “The Hunt with John Walsh.”
“You had the courage to make that call, that’s how we catch these guys.”
Arrested in Texas
In 2008, Napier was living in Comanche, Texas, working as a handyman.
He befriended Jennifer Campbell, a young single mother who worked a convenience store close to his house. Soon Napier was helping Campbell care for her 6-year-old daughter.
Johnny Benjamin Napier, 56
In 2009, Napier’s 14-year-old great-niece Cheyenne told Campbell that she suspected Napier of touching Campbell’s daughter sexually. Although the child denied it at first, she eventually admitted that sexual contact had occurred.
The Comanche County Police Department arrested Napier for indecency with a child.
“I went ahead and agreed to bail Johnny out because he was a low risk,” bail bondswoman Ruth Shugart told CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh.” “I don’t even think he had a speeding ticket.”
“Monday morning when we go to court, he’s not in the courtroom,” she recalled. “I thought, oh my God, he’s gone. He’s on the run.”
New state, new name
Napier made his way to Baker, Montana, where he adopted the name “Sean Denning,” and got a job working for Robin and Dana Wright, a mother/daughter team running an assisted-care facility. Dana had a 4-year-old daughter of her own.
For the next two years, “Denning” became an integral part of the business and the lives of the women – and the little girl. He moved into Robin’s basement. He bought toys and gave the girl a pet mouse. He put up a sign in his bedroom: “The Kid Zone.”
One day, Dana Wright’s daughter innocently alerted her that “Denning” had been touching her.
“In April of 2012, my daughter and I were laying in bed, watching a movie,” Dana told “The Hunt.” “She tried to put my hand on her private areas, and I told her ‘No, we don’t do that.’ And she said, ‘Well, Sean does it.’”
Surprised and distressed, the Wrights decided to keep a closer eye on their employee but decide not to report their concerns to the police.
Months later, while visiting family in North Carolina, the child repeated her admission to relatives. They immediately reported the allegation to the Child Protection office in Montana. “Denning” got wind of this and abruptly disappeared.
Making the connection
Initially, the police sent out a warrant for “Sean Denning,” but when no leads materialized, the police and FBI coordinated a campaign on social media. That’s when Shugart, the bondswoman who had originally bailed Napier out on his Texas charges, saw the bulletin and put a name to the face – Johnny Benjamin Napier.
Working off of a tip, police arrested Napier in Springfield, Missouri, on November 20, 2014. Napier has now been indicted for sex crimes involving four young children. He is incarcerated, awaiting trial in Comanche, Texas. He has not yet entered a plea. He is expected to be extradited to Montana for a second trial.
See more of Napier’s case on “The Hunt with John Walsh,” Sunday, August 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.