Anti-pedophile NGO International Justice Mission ex-pressed concern Monday following the release from jail and disappearance of a 54-year-old man wanted in the US for child sexual abuse and recently charged with debauchery by Sihanoukville Municipal Court.
Terry Darrell Smith was arrested July 31 and charged with debauchery Aug 3 for allegedly having sex with two ethnic Vietnamese girls aged 13 and 14 at his Sihanoukville bar, Tramp’s Palace, and filming the abuse, said an official at IJM and Sihanoukville court and police officials.
Smith’s Cambodian girlfriend Chea Sovannary, 26, was also charged with debauchery for allegedly procuring and facilitating the US national’s abuse of children at the coastal resort.
Both Smith and his girlfriend were released from pre-trial detention Aug 31 by Sihanoukville’s court Director Svay Sisarouth. The director issued a “warrant of temporary release” based on a letter from a doctor at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital who claimed the US national suffered from a head injury sustained when he was a marine in the late 1970s.
Smith’s current whereabouts are unknown, said the IJM official, who wished to remain anonymous.
Evidence collected under the supervision of IJM includes videos of as many as five girls, aged 12 to 15, dancing naked at Smith’s bar and footage of Smith having sex with them, police and the IJM official said.
“The evidence we confiscated with the police,” the IJM official said. “He videotaped every sexual act he had with the girls.”
Smith and Chea Sovannary were arrested following a one-month investigation by Sihanoukville police under the guidance of IJM, which included undercover investigations in the bar.
Smith also sold the girls to customers in the bar while his girlfriend Chea Sovannary managed the transactions, the IJM official alleged.
“He was selling the girls at the bar for $15,” the IJM official added.
Smith is wanted in Oregon in the US on 13 counts of child sexual abuse, several of which were allegedly against his own daughter, he added.
Court Director Svay Sisarouth said Monday that she released Smith and his girlfriend from prison based on a medical letter signed by Calmette Hospital’s Dr Kong Phirum.
“He has the sickness because his skull had been operated previously when he was a marine in the Philippines,” Svay Sisarouth said.
“His skull is artificial…his brain flowed water,” she said. “He had to be sent to Calmette.”
Attempts to contact Kong Phirum on Monday were unsuccessful.
Svay Sisarouth said that she released Smith’s girlfriend because he refused to take medicine from anyone else.
“She is the caretaker and the person who gives the medicines,” the court director maintained. “The [girlfriend] is important, he is already old.”
She added that she wasn’t concerned about Smith attempting to flee the country as authorities have confiscated his US passport.
Svay Sisarouth confirmed that girls ranging in ages from 12 to 15 were made to dance naked at Smith’s bar and that there was an arrest warrant for Smith in the US related to child sexual abuse.
Smith’s case is still under investigation, she added, and a date for his trial has not been set yet.
“If he could escape, it depends on the authorities at the borders and checkpoints,” she said, adding that her decision to release Smith and his girlfriend was completely legal.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said that he could not comment on cases involving US citizens.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Be Sivanna, police chief for Sihanoukville’s Anti-Human Traf- ficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau. He declined to elaborate.
Smith’s lawyer Khieu Sambo said his client’s reported sickness stemmed from a traffic accident in the US in 1978, which damaged his skull. He declined to disclose Smith’s current location.
Cambodia has witnessed a string of debauchery charges this year against foreign men accused of child sex abuse.
Earlier this month, 68-year-old Hurni Hans Ulrich, a Swiss national, was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Phnom Penh. He was subsequently charged with debauchery.
Police arrested two German men, Thomas Engelhardt, 42, and Karl Heinz Henning, 61, in August for their alleged roles in a child pornography ring. Both men have been charged with debauchery.
In June, US national Michael Joseph Pepe, 53, was charged with debauchery for allegedly having sex with an unspecified number of girls aged 8 to 13 years.
In April, Sihanoukville police arrested German national Alexander Moritz Watrin, 36, for allegedly having sex with boys aged 12 and 14. Police said Monday that he remains in pre-trial detention.