Saturday, April 4, 2009

We will never forget...

This next Friday Andi would have turned 22. Ten years ago her life was brutally stolen from her when she was kidnapped from her father's rural Arkansas home, raped and strangled. During this time of year I always struggle with these terrible facts. My heart will always have an empty space and there has not been one day since she was taken that I have not thought about her. A parent should never lose a child. It's not natural. So, as I have almost every year I am honoring her by placing her video on this blog dedicated to her memory.

I love you Andi. I miss you.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boca Raton database entrepreneur turns his attention from terrorists to pedophiles


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 14, 2009

BOCA RATON — The details are too hideous to believe: An Alabama woman arranges to have her 7-year-old relative and another child raped by a pedophile.

She even drugs the children so they won't resist.

The woman, a former teacher, is caught only because a high-powered team of pedophile hunters based in Boca Raton discovers that she is distributing child pornography online. Police set up a sting that results in the arrests of the woman and the man whom she summoned to her home.

That January bust is just one of dozens throughout the country credited to data guru Hank Asher's latest venture, the cryptically named TLFO. Asher made hundreds of millions of dollars by founding two Boca Raton companies, Database Technologies and Seisint, and later selling his stakes in them.

Now Asher says he plans to spend half a billion dollars, including $200 million of his own cash, to build the world's most powerful computer, one that will string together 100,000 potent servers and will be housed in a 25,000-square-foot bunker at the birthplace of the personal computer in Boca Raton.

Asher is cagey about the business plan for all that horsepower, but he's eager to describe one of the computer's functions: Tracking down pedophiles who rape and sometimes kill infants, toddlers and children.

Because he does not want to alert his prey, Asher is vague about exactly how he unearths child predators. He says, though, that pedophiles have found a safe haven on the Web.

"At one point, we were gaining ground on these guys," he said. "In the last five years, this has gone epidemic, and it's because of the Internet. Now I'm going to make their best friend into their worst nightmare."

'A paycheck for the soul'

Asher is a 57-year-old motormouth who favors pink polo shirts, enjoys smoking the tires of his souped-up black Mercedes and imagines that God is a black woman.

He has proved he knows how to find criminals. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Seisint developed software that identified terrorists. His work also led to the arrests of the Beltway snipers who killed 10 people in the Washington area in 2002.

"The systems we made were for terrorists, but they work for pedophiles," he said.

Asher's story is an unlikely one. A self-described Indiana farm boy who dropped out of high school ("I wasn't exactly a dropout - I ran out," he said), he moved to Fort Lauderdale in the early 1970s and ran a successful firm that painted high-rise buildings.

His late-blooming skill with data made him truly wealthy. He owned 40 percent of Seisint in 2004, when it was sold to British publishing giant Reed Elsevier for $775 million and became part of LexisNexis.

"I really thought I'd wind up on a 200-foot yacht down in the South Pacific," Asher said. "But I decided to go back to work."

In 1993, he donated his database software to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The first time his creation helped rescue a child from a predator, Asher says, he felt like he was cashing "a paycheck for the soul."

Since then, he has immersed himself in the underworld of child predators. It's a subculture in which pedophiles trade not only ghastly images of children being raped but also instructional videos such as cartoons designed to teach young children that sex with adults is normal.

Asher says he wants to catch "the worst of the worst," men who rape infants, toddlers and young children.

He has assembled an impressive team of pedophile hunters, including former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore, the recently retired sheriff of Collier County and a former Wyoming police officer who's an expert on pedophilia.

Running TLFO is Ken Hunter, a steely-eyed former chief postal inspector who has been tracking pedophiles for 40 years. A decade ago, the U.S. Postal Service had tightened the clamps on child porn.

"Along came the Internet, and everything went to hell," Hunter said. "It used to be a pedophile knew they were weird. Today there's so much of it out there that it seems normal."

Erin Runnion, whose 5-year-old daughter was raped and killed in Southern California in 2002, was a recent guest of Asher's at the Boca bunker. She says Asher's work already is protecting children.

"It really is revolutionary," Runnion said. "There's no way you can tell by looking at somebody that they're a pedophile. But you can look on their hard drive and see that there's child porn."

Acronym for 'The Last One'

Asher is spending big money on real estate. In anticipation of hiring hundreds of employees, he leased 143,000 square feet late last year at the former IBM headquarters, now known as Boca Corporate Center. He took an option to lease an additional 500,000 square feet there.

If he exercises the option, he'll have the equivalent of a small shopping mall filled with computers and workers. He says he aims to hire 5,000 people at his company, TLFO.

The name is an acronym for "The Last One." (Asher, who drops F-bombs with aplomb, doesn't mention what the "F" stands for.)

After founding Database Technologies and Seisint, he says, he does not want to start another company after this one.

Asher has vowed not to charge police for helping catch child molesters, so hunting these predators won't cover the costs of real estate, servers and employees. He won't discuss his business plan, except to say that he may sell background checks to employers who hire workers who come in contact with children.

His reticence owes to the noncompeting agreement he signed with Reed Elsevier when he sold Seisint. His Web site,, counts down the hundredths of seconds until that noncompeting agreement ends this year.

"I'm sure there will be commercial applications," Asher said.

"I'm going for the gusto," he added. "I don't want to check out of this planet without building the world's most valuable company."

'You don't mess with kids'

In the meantime, Asher has courted the support of parents of slain and abused children.

Last month, he flew the parents of two dozen murdered, kidnapped or otherwise abused children to South Florida and put them up for a weekend at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Then he flew them to Washington to talk to lawmakers and federal officials.

The guest list was a who's who of heartbroken parents. John Walsh, the father of Adam Walsh and host of television's America's Most Wanted, was there. So were the parents of Jessica Lunsford and Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted as a teenager and forced to play the wife of a deranged bigamist.

An animated Asher led parents on a tour of his cavernous facility in Boca Raton. Workers had installed new carpet and renovated the bathrooms, but the furniture had not arrived, and construction of the server room was just beginning. He described how the floor of the bunker would be raised to guard against flooding and said he'll have a backup data center in Alpharetta, Ga.

He conducted the tour with the timing of a stand-up comic. He mimicked Moore's Mississippi accent and chided Butterworth for sweet-talking Boca Raton building officials after Asher had irritated them. But when the topic turned to predators, he grew serious.

"The rules are you don't mess with kids," Asher told his audience.

Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, lauded Asher for investing in what he considers a forgotten cause.

"We so desperately wanted to see the Internet crimes being taken seriously," Smart said. "Crime against children does not get the attention it deserves."

Butterworth, who stepped down last year as head of the Florida Department of Children and Families, says he joined Asher's team in part because sexual abuse is rampant in foster care.

"The public does not realize how severe this problem is," Butterworth said.

He hopes TLFO can build a database that will let teachers, police officers and caseworkers see more information about children who are victims of sexual abuse. Now a police officer or teacher who suspects abuse has no way of knowing what others have learned about the child's problems

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Missing: Amber DuBois

The family of a missing 14-year old California girl launched an all-out search Sunday morning that extended into the local mountains.

Hundreds of volunteers combed through rugged terrain in search for Amber LeeAnne DuBois, television news station San Diego 6 reported. DuBois was reportedly last seen shortly after 7 a.m. on Feb. 13 while walking to her high school in Escondido, Calif.

The FBI is “providing investigative assistance” to Escondido police, an agency spokesman told the San Diego Union Tribune on Saturday.

Investigators said Amber — who was last seen wearing black clothing and a backpack — talked to a friend on her cell phone as she walked to class that morning. She has not been seen or heard from since, police said.

The teen's father, Maurice DuBois, said reports of a possible sighting of his daughter Saturday were considered unreliable. He said Amber is very structured, and not the type of girl to run away.

The family is hoping that the Tour of California bicycle race — which is expected to draw thousands of spectators to Escondido on Sunday — will heighten public awareness and help in finding Amber.

Local media outlets reported Friday that there may have been an attempted abduction in the same area where Amber was last seen.

The family's private investigator Bill Garcia told San Diego 6 that a woman was almost abducted by a man driving a white utility vehicle in Escondido two weeks before Amber was reported missing — though police have not yet determined a credible link between that case and Amber's disappearance.

Meanwhile, family members have set up a Web site with pictures and contact information for the missing girl, and are pushing for the search to go nationwide.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Missing Florida Girl: Haleigh Cummings

With the media circus surrounding this Florida case of missing 5-year old Haleigh Cummings there are a few facts that remain steady and true.

*She is only 5-years-old.
*She's just a tiny little girl.
*She was taken from her bed while she was sleeping.
*She hasn't been seen since February 9th.
*Her parent's are very young and not media savvy, they are doing what they know to do to plead for their daughter's return.
*And the big one HALEIGH IS MISSING.

Please look at her image. There have been lead from Florida to Tennessee. This little girl needs to come home.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surviving Parent...

As you know I spent last week on Capitol Hill or "on the Hill," lobbying for funding for the Adam Walsh Bill. This bill was signed into federal law two years ago, a nice pretty photo op was given and then funding was ever given and the bill has pretty much sat there with no teeth to change a thing for America's children. So, our group The Surviving Parent's Coalition spent last week lobbying to Congress to change this and get the ball moving. Abductions are on the rise and Internet crimes against children are atrocious.

Last year I took some time off of my child advocacy work to regroup my focus and spend some time with my family. Now because our law makers are simply dragging their feet on something that is so extremely important to the children of this country it is time to get back out there and fight for what is right...and that is keeping these kids safe.

The past ten years of living without my daughter Andi have been difficult. Seeing her friends now off to college and getting married is another aspect of the unfairness of violent crime. I will never see her go to college or hold my grandchildren...but I can make sure someone else gets too.

Please email your Congressman and urge him to support the Adam Walsh Bill and allocate the funding that rightfully belongs to it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Work, Work, Work

I have spent the week with the most amazing people on the planet, parent's of children who have been abducted, sexually abused, and or murdered. Our group, the Surviving Parent's Coalition has some VERY, VERY, VERY heavy hitters on board with us and although I cannot tell you the details right now we are honestly becoming a 900 pound gorilla. It amazes me how strong our voices are even as young as the organization is. We have been here in FLorida for the past few days doing some work and are heading up to DC in the morning to do some important lobbying. If I didn't have to get up at 4 AM to make my plane I would put some pictures on my blog...but give me a few days and I will.

Until then...good night from Boca Raton...