COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A week after the arrest of the co-owner of a popular downtown Columbus eatery, police are working to identify an undisclosed number of potential sex crime victims.
Yesterday, Columbus police asked people who had used the restrooms at the Animal Farm in July and August to come forward.
Dennis Cleveland Thompson, 37, sits in the Muscogee County Jail without bond, Columbus Police are in the early stages of this investigation. And they are trying to figure out who many of the victims are. And the police need your help.
Thompson stands accused of putting cameras in the restrooms of Animal Farm, capturing video and photos of people in compromised positions.
He was in court last Friday after police arrested him on 23 charges. It included six counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children.
There are currently 11 identified victims – six of those are juveniles.
“These could be your family members,” said Sgt. Alicia Hoover of the CPD Sex Crimes Unit. “These could be your grandkids, your grandmothers, your fathers, anybody in your family. They need to come forward to assist us so No. 1 they will know they are the victim of a crime. And No. 2, so we can continue the investigation and look for more evidence.”
In court last Friday, police say that the evidence thus far has come from an SD card in one of the cameras and an Gmail account registered to “Chef Landon Thompson,” Thompson’s professional name.
Additional electronic devices were seized when Thompson’s house was searched last month, and that evidence is being analyzed by the GBI.
Muscogee County District Attorney Stacey Jackson stresses it’s important that people who think they could be victims come forward.
“Obviously, it makes a bigger impact and is best for us when prosecuting the case to have identified victims,” Jackson said. “In certain circumstances under certain statutes, we can prosecute as a John Doe or Jane Doe, but it would be preferable to have those potential victims identified.”
These types of cases are rare, Jackson said.
“A case like this doesn’t come by our desk very often, but it does happen locally, and of course, across the state, and across the nation. So, it’s very important I think for the police department to fully and thoroughly investigate all aspects of the case and find as many potential victims that are out there.”
Hoover says because of its sensitive nature, this evidence is being handled with great care.
“The footage that we have collected is locked up in our offices,” she said. “Nobody has seen them except for the investigators investigating the case. … If they come forward we do ask that they provide us with the dates and times they were in the restaurant. There are two unisex bathrooms at the restaurant and if they can give us which bathroom they were possibly in. Also what kind of clothing they were wearing? And also provide us with a photograph.”
The restaurant remains open and operating during normal business hours.
Thompson is no longer involved with the operation of the restaurant and will not be allowed on the property should he bond out of jail.