Dozens of parents trusted him with their children, but now they're looking at Daniel "Dan" B. Steffen with eyes of disgust and rage after the horrendous acts he committed over the last few decades finally came to light.
The Texas man, who hosted his own syndicated radio show under the alias Rick Austin, earned the trust of the families in his community and parents didn't hesitate to let him babysit, volunteer with the Boy Scout troop, and even allow their kids to work with him on his home-based show.
Little did they know that he was a predator that tricked young boys into spending time with him by listening to their problems and buying them treats like candy and ice cream.
"I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty," said Steffen, 70, during his most recent court appearance.
The former disc jockey has been in jail since 2017, after a man reported him to the police for inappropriate behavior with a teen boy. Detectives later raided his home and discovered a child pornography collection, including more than 8,000 images that date back decades.
He stored most of them in a briefcase labeled "extremely confidential," and attached instructions on how to get rid of it after he dies. They also found a binder he titled "Dan's Favorite Pictures."
"You are a predator of the worst kind," said District Judge Angela Tucker, who presided over his case.
Steffen pleaded guilty to one count of indecency with a child, two counts of sexual assault of a child, three counts of possession of child pornography, one count of sexual performance of a child, and one count of solicitation to commit capital murder.
The capital murder charge stems from his attempt to get a Collin County prosecutor killed after he got locked up. He admitted to hiring a hitman and paid them $45,000 to get the job done.
"I was frightened," said Assistant District Attorney Crystal Levonius, who had a hit on her. "I think I was more afraid for my children because they are all very young. Because I was aware of the defendant and I felt like he was the most depraved individual I ever prosecuted. I took him at his word."
In addition to the images, damning evidence was also found in audio form. In court, prosecutors played disturbing clips where Steffen can be heard commenting on the boys' appearances.
While people testified against pedophile, so far all of the sex-related convictions he received involve just one teenage victim. However, Plano police are convinced there are several other victims who did not come forward. They're still working to identify the boys in the photos found in Steffen's home.
"We will never know the depth of his abuse," said Dallas County prosecutor Jason Fine, a special prosecutor in the case. "He deserves to spend every day for the rest of his life locked up in a cage."
Steffen was previously arrested in 1994 on suspicions of child porn possession, but the charges were later dropped after the victim died in an unrelated incident.
However, this time around the man who Dallas County prosecutor Trey Stock described as "calculating, meticulous and careful," can't escape. Judge Tucker agreed with Fine, and has sentenced Steffen to life in prison, reports Dallas News.
While Steffen hasn't issued an apology, Defense attorney Todd Shapiro sympathized with the victims and their families and said he's "relieved this is over for everybody involved."
It's unfortunate that it took this long to finally nab Steffen and put him behind bars, but I'm sure many are glad he's finally off the streets.