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After FBI Arrests Babysitter and Camp Counselor, Parents Learn Horrible Reason He Liked Working with Kids

An outside observer would believe that Ryan Michael Spencer was a trustworthy teen who enjoyed working with children.

But his arrest in a child pornography case shows that his motives were far from pure.

As KION News reports, the 19-year-old from Aptos, California, was a student at Cabrillo College, where he was studying to be a teacher. He worked at an after-school program at Mar Vista Elementary School and was a cabin leader at a science camp. But his biggest source of income came from babysitting.

According to the Mercury News, Spencer advertised as a babysitter on Care.com and Nextdoor.com As agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would learn, it was no accident that Spencer went out of his way to solicit new clients and spend time with young children.

While interviewing 24-year-old Bryan Peterson, who was discovered with thousands of images of child porn on his computer, FBI agents learned that Peterson obtained many of those images from Spencer. The two communicated frequently via the Kik app and traded photos of prepubescent children.

Most disturbingly, Spencer got the photos for Peterson through his job as a babysitter and camp counselor.

The complaint that FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Hadley filed describes in detail how Spencer would take photos of children at camp or during babysitting jobs and share them with Peterson. In the complaint, Peterson told the FBI:

“Spencer’s primary source of income is from babysitting numerous children, and that Spencer takes images and video of many of these children when they are naked.”

He added that Spencer’s preference was for children between the ages of four and eight.

The complaint itself has numerous disturbing accounts of the conversations and pictures traded between Spencer and Peterson. They include photos of children in Spencer’s care changing, taking a bath, and in the locker room after a swim class. The complaint goes on to add:

“The witness also stated that Spencer claimed that he had engaged in sexually explicit conducted with several other children while babysitting them.”

It was clear to the FBI that both Spencer and Peterson made a special effort to seek out jobs and hobbies that would allow them to have access to young children…and more victims. As Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Garcia stated in a court filing:

“Both Defendants have built their lives around seeking access to children. Spencer is studying to become a teacher and works as a camp counselor; Petersen is an Eagle Scout who has led overnight camping trips for young boys, and he also works as a tutor and a chess coach. […] While projecting a veneer of competence and trustworthiness, both Defendants committed the most heinous of crimes: sexual abuse and exploitation of the children in their care.”

The FBI immediately arrested both Spencer and Peterson.

The revelation that Spencer abused his position of trust has left parents in the community asking how he “slipped through” the screening process as a counselor and after-school aide.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Watkins told KSBW News that the school district hadn’t seen any “red flags” during Spencer’s time there and assured parents that Spencer had never been alone with any children at the elementary school where he worked. But parents have their doubts.

According to KSBW, one parent wrote on Facebook that they would sometimes pick up their daughter from an after-school program and see that there was only one child left waiting for pickup. That child was then left alone with Spencer.

Hailey Sargent also had a daughter in Spencer’s after-school program. She told KION that it was “gut-wrenching” to learn what he had been doing:

“She spent time with this guy and has hugged him every time he saw her. We’ve met him at Safeway and talked, and it was just really hard to comprehend that she spent hours with this guy and we don’t know what he’s done with them.”

The FBI is now working to identify Spencer’s victims. Spencer has been denied bail and will remain in state custody until trial.