BEAVERTON, Ore. – For years, people in Steven Rockett’s neighborhood had their suspicions.
Pool parties. Lavish video-game systems. Video cameras everywhere. Free toys for anybody who wanted them.
All for children who weren’t even his.
Rockett’s behavior became so sketchy in fact, that neighbors called police – only to see nothing come of it.
One neighbor said she cornered Rockett after an incident in which he tried to get her son to pull down his pants for the cameras.
“That made me so angry - we had him over here,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “We told him to come over here and we had him sit on the couch and I was at him. I said ‘You’re not moving, you’re not going anywhere until the police get here.’
“And they came and talked and talked and talked and talked and apparently there was not enough evidence to convict.”
That information would’ve been valuable to Paul Blackmore, the president of the Aloha Soccer Club.
He learned Sunday night that Rockett had been arrested – he’s charged with rape, sodomy, sex abuse, unlawful sexual penetration and using a child in display of sexually explicit misconduct. Detectives said Rockett sexually abused three sisters while their family was homeless and living with him in Beaverton in 2011.
Rockett, it turns out, had been taking pictures of young girls at soccer games in the Aloha Soccer Club in the meantime. Those pictures were later sent to parents.
They also went on Rockett’s Flickr page, which consists of 663 pages that are almost entirely of young children.
“It would’ve been nice if there was something that could’ve let us know that or let us see that potential people have a potential issue,” Blackmore said. “But again, there was nothing out there for that.
“It kinda sickens you to think that somebody is taking these pictures and has some other kind of motive behind why he’s taking them.”
Neighborhood children describe a kid’s paradise at Rockett’s house. He would throw Fourth of July fireworks shows that rivaled those in downtown Portland, rent inflatable bounce-castle and set up giant slip-and-slides.
Now that they’ve grown up, it all makes sense, but they say it took them quite a while before they put the pieces together and realized what he might be up to.
“You’d go into his house and he had a huge screen TV back when they were brand new,” one now-adult man said. “He had like every single video console you could imagine and then literally a binder with like the slots for CDs and every single game ever made for every system right there.
“In his garage he had these boxes of RC cars and he’d give them out to everyone just like they were candy.”
The man said Rockett would also throw lavish parties in his backyard nearly every weekend during the summer, ostensibly inviting other children to keep his own kids company – even though his own kids were much younger than the rest of the attendees.
“He would use his kids, I guess, to have everybody over,” the man said. “And he’d have these parties in his back yard with these trampolines and these like waterslides. It was like a Disneyland.
“Yeah, it was Disneyland and we’d see drinking going on back there. I don’t know who was responsible for the drinking but we’d always see lots of alcohol and a lot of toys.”
Even as his neighbors grew suspicious, Rockett was becoming involved in a web of sports teams. Many of the pictures on his Flickr page are from baseball games, soccer games and swimming pools.
Most leagues run background checks on adults who come into contact with the children. Since Rockett didn’t directly deal with the children in an official capacity, there was no call for background checks.
Blackmore said Rockett became involved with one team in the league because he was friends with the parents of a girl who played on the team.
“At any given soccer game, you’ll see many, many people out taking photos of the games,” Blackmore said. “So it’s not an uncommon occurrence to see that. He never gave us any outward signs that there was anything other than him taking pictures of the team.
“It’s quite disturbing. We have somebody who’s been entrusted to take pictures of the girls during the games and it definitely gives us concerns and time for pause.”
Police said they kept an eye on Rockett for 14 years but only just recently compiled enough evidence to arrest him. Now they’re working with police in Asia to investigate Blackmore’s trips there – at least some of which are documented on Flickr.
One neighbor said Rockett showed him video of a trip to the Philippines.
“He would take this whole town – he had this extravagant feast for the entire city,” the man said. “Everybody would have their own table with every food you could imagine. He would show us these videos of him playing with these little kids and they would follow him around like he was a father.”
The woman who eventually called police said Rockett used his trips to attempt to lure at least one neighborhood girl, who was about 12 at the time.
“He goes, ‘Oh girls in the Philippines at your age are having relations all the time, that’s perfectly normal,’” she said. “He goes ‘Anytime you want to come over, spend the night at the house, sleep in my bed, that’s perfectly normal.”
Blackmore said there’s not much his league can do to keep people like Rockett away, so long as they’re not there in an official capacity.
“It’s disturbing, really,” he said. “The parents are upset because they feel like a trust has been broken there and somebody that they were trusting to do something – taking photos of their children playing soccer in an innocent context - has been taken into another context. So that’s kinda disturbing.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s kinda the world we live in right now.”