RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Amy Thomson was eating breakfast with her two daughters at Burger King on Friday when she recognized the name of Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Smith on the front page of the newspaper.

Smith, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday for sexually assaulting young girls in the Kaiserslautern area, had offered baby-sitting services on the website.

Thomson frequented the site, she said, and when she saw Smith’s name in the paper, she remembered that her friend had hired him as a sitter.

“She’d just gone through a divorce and was looking for a good male role model,” Thomson said. “She said he was ‘super nice’ and very ‘charming.’ But I guess most offenders like this are very charismatic. And they prey on the most vulnerable.”

Thomson, like many mothers in the Kaiserslautern and Ramstein military communities, said she was upset by Smith’s crimes, especially since she did not know whether her friend’s children had been victims.

“Seeing that makes me nervous and just sick to my stomach,” she said, pointing to the photo of an expressionless Smith in Stars and Stripes on the day after he pleaded guilty in his court-martial to multiple criminal counts of child sexual assault and rape.

“I just feel so bad for the children,” Thomson said.

For many parents who talked about the case on Friday, the first time they had heard there was a child predator in their community was from the newspaper’s coverage of the court-martial, which continued through Friday. Smith has been in custody since April, and the Air Force referred Smith’s case to court-martial on Sept. 20, according to charging documents.

Families shopping at a holiday bazaar on Rhine Ordnance Barracks on Friday were shocked by the news of Smith’s crimes.

“The fact he pleaded guilty and we’re only hearing about it now is scary,” said Air Force spouse Wendy Duazo as she glanced down at her 2-year old daughter. Duazo, whose husband is based at Ramstein, said the case had shaken her trust of those within the insular military community.

“I would feel safer with someone that was active duty, so it hits a little closer to home,” said Duazo. “It’s just like someone in law enforcement.”

Army Spc. Jonathan M. Green said only one sentence would be enough for Smith.

“I think they should have the death penalty for drug dealers and pedophiles,” said Green, who is based in Landstuhl, Germany.

Green’s wife, Alicia, said knowledge of Smith’s crimes will make her more cautious about who cares for the couple’s 3-year old daughter. “It’s shocking, especially being in a foreign country. You think you could trust your own people.”

Most of the parents who discussed the case said it highlights how difficult it is to find competent, adult baby sitters on overseas military posts.

Tammy Chandler, who lives in the Vogelweh housing area where Smith committed some of his crimes, said being so far away from family members makes finding a trustworthy babysitter that much harder.

“If we were back home, we would have our moms to count on,” said Chandler, who has a 13-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now