N.H. fugitive makes 10 Most Wanted list
Inclusion reflects FBI's increased focus on child predators
The Federal Bureau of Investigation placed a New Hampshire sex offender on its 10 Most Wanted list yesterday, adding him to the ranks of notorious fugitives such as Osama bin Laden and South Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
Jon Savarino Schillaci, 35, who was last spotted in Mexico, is the only child predator on a list dominated by accused killers. He replaces another pedophile on the list who was captured in Montreal in May after six years on the run.
Schillaci's inclusion on perhaps the most well-known list of fugitives in the world provided rare insight into the way the FBI compiles its Top 10 list. When one of the Top 10 is captured, the bureau's 56 field offices around the country scramble to place the "baddest of the bad" of the fugitives they are chasing in the open slot, according to Kenneth W. Kaiser, an assistant FBI director who heads the Criminal Investigative Division.
The fugitive must be particularly dangerous and have a lengthy, violent criminal record. Agents must show that they have made exhaustive efforts to find the fugitive and that the national publicity that comes with making the list will aid in the capture.
Warren T. Bamford, the special agent in charge of the Boston office, said he proposed Schillaci for the list because he is a repeat offender, wanted for a heinous crime, likely to reoffend while on the run, and has eluded capture since 1999.
Asked how Schillaci compared with bin Laden or Bul ger, Bamford said, "He's just different." He said Schillaci's inclusion on the list reflects the FBI's increased focus on child predators and the recognition of the risk they pose.
"By putting him on the Top 10 it does bring notoriety to his particular crime," said Bamford. "So I think it's probably no coincidence that we took one pedophile off the Top 10 and now we have another pedophile on the Top 10. I think it kind of does go to the very core that we want to say we need to protect our children and we're going to do that by putting an individual like this on the Top 10."
Kaiser said the FBI chose Schillaci from a pool of about 50 candidates submitted by offices throughout the country.
"It's kind of subjective. There's no rating scale," said Kaiser, a former head of the FBI's Boston office. He said he had no hand in choosing Schillaci, but signed off on his selection before sending it to the director for final approval.
"Someone who makes the list is very worthy," Kaiser said.
Selection to the list also comes with a reward for the fugitive's capture - in Schillaci's case $100,000 - and publicity that often brings results.
Since the 10 Most Wanted list was first produced in 1950, the FBI has captured 457 of the fugitives it publicized. Schillaci is the 488th fugitive to be added to the list.
Thomas P. Colantuono, the US Attorney for New Hampshire, thanked the FBI during a news conference yesterday for making Schillaci the first fugitive from the Granite State to make the Top 10.
"The FBI has many fugitives that they go after, many dangerous violent criminals who do other types of crimes," said Colantuono. By putting "a spot on their list for a sexual predator," the FBI is showing its commitment to a Justice Department initiative launched last year that focuses on missing and exploited children, he added.
John Walsh, who hosts the "America's Most Wanted" television program on Fox and was on hand for the news conference, said that as the father of a murdered child he was thrilled to see the FBI give pedophiles the same priority as murderers and bank robbers.
The FBI said Schillaci's crime was particularly heinous because he took advantage of a Deerfield, N.H., couple who had befriended him and let him live in their home after he was released from a Texas prison in 1999. He allegedly molested their 5-year-old son.
Schillaci, who was born in Oklahoma and raised by adoptive parents in Texas, went to prison at age 17 for sexually assaulting two 11-year-old boys and videotaping one of the assaults.
FBI Special Agent Laura Hanlon said the New Hampshire couple was inspired to reach out to Schillaci after reading a poem he had written that was published in University of New Hampshire Magazine while he was an inmate.
The couple then developed a friendship with Schillaci while corresponding with him for the next seven years.
When Schillaci, who earned two master's degrees while in prison, was released from prison, the family allowed him to live with them temporarily because he was attending Tufts University in Boston, where he was pursuing a doctorate in philosophy.
The New Hampshire couple believed that "all teenagers make mistakes" and that Schillaci had turned his life around during his decade in prison, Hanlon said. Schillaci, a pianist, had been living with them for seven weeks and was about to start offering music lessons to children when the couple's 5-year-old son told his parents that he had been molested, authorities said.
Schillaci fled after he was indicted in November 1999 on state sexual assault charges, then was later charged with possession of child pornography after some 300 images allegedly were found on his computer. He speaks Spanish, French, and German and was last seen seven years ago in Baja, Mexico.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.