A Pennsylvania man targeted hundreds of teens in nearly 30 states and three countries, including at least one teenager in San Diego, with graphic letters, according to police.
Joseph Polin, 46, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, combed the internet to dig up details and photos that he used to create picture collages of the teenagers that he then sent to his victims, Hazelton police said.
Hazleton police Chief Jerry Speziale told NBC 7 his department received a tip earlier this month that Polin may be involved in child pornography.
When officers arrived at his home last Friday, Polin came out firing a gun, Speziale said. A 5-hour standoff ensued that ended with Polin taking his own life.
Police searched the home and found letters, typically printed on pink-hued paper detailing lewd sexual acts about girls usually between the ages of 12 and 16.
A Scripps Ranch mother told NBC 7 her then-16-year-old daughter was one of Polin's victims. They received the letter this week.
"This is the part that really one of the things that really affected me; he says, 'Did your mom talk to you about cyber safety? Maybe she should have thought about it herself. She overshared her children,'" the mother said. NBC 7 is not sharing the identity of the mother or daughter because they were victims of a sex crime.
The family said birthdays, names, addresses and other details were pieced together from an old blog the mother used to share family photos. It hadn't been used in 5 years.
"Everything is out there without me realizing the consequences and I don't think anyone realizes what the consequences are," the mother told NBC 7.
She is warning other parents and teenagers to look at the information they are sharing online.
"Know who you're talking to. Don't give your information out. Recognize what you're posting out," she said. You really have to filter what you're putting on the internet today."
She and her husband said the letter and the PO Box address stood out and they were able to keep the letter from reaching their daughter.
A package allegedly sent by Polin also reached NBC 7 Studios, addressed to anchor Monica Dean. Dean had previously reported a story on child internet safety.
"It was definitely a startling surprise that gave me pause as a journalist and a mother," Dean said. "We were covering this story, and suddenly the man at the center of this global stalking case was addressing me by name."
After returning from vacation, Dean spotted the package on her desk Tuesday and recognized the name. She immediately reported it to security and police were called to NBC 7 Studios to investigate.
The package contained a bound manuscript, several thumb drives, explicit materials and a letter predicting his suicide. It was turned over to local police.
"The manuscript begins with a letter addressed to me, referencing a story I reported on 'child internet safety,'" Dean said.
In the ranting and convoluted letter, the author talked about how careless people are with posts and pictures of children. He said that even seemingly harmless pictures can be photoshopped and edited and detailed how he was able to stalk girls and confirm personal information online.
Polin suggests he knew Dean would receive the information after his death.
Police are still reviewing everything included in the package.
"I think the sound message behind this disturbing case is a caution for everyone about just how vulnerable our information and pictures posted online can be."