Smith's acquaintances chime in on community message boards
Stars and Stripes November 5, 2010
WASHINGTON — The website where an Air Force staff sergeant advertised his baby-sitting services in Germany is blowing up with comments from people who knew — or even had near misses with — the now-convicted sex offender.
Commenter “Ashley Lester” wrote that she had e-mailed Joshua Adam Smith about baby-sitting for her son, who was 14 months old at the time. But when she spoke with him, “something in my stomch [sic] turned and something in my head just screamed NO!!!” she wrote on RamsteinUnderground.com. Her post has since been removed.
The site, which uses the tagline “heart and soul of the community,” and its sister site, RamsteinYardSales.com, offer discussion boards and classifieds where military families in the area can communicate about local issues, sell goods and locate services, including child care.
Smith started posting on the site about a year ago, saying he was an experienced baby sitter. His pitch was good enough to get him hired by many parents, but his demeanor made some skeptical, according to posts.
Austin Allgaier, co-founder of the websites, told Stars and Stripes in an e-mail that they “have worked closely with law enforcement to bring him to justice.” Allgaier couldn’t release details of his involvment in the investigation but said that Smith’s “activity was closely monitored and reported.” They were notified about Smith by the authorities, he said.
About 60,000 people visit both websites each month. The website’s rules prohibit unlicensed child-care providers from advertising services, but it’s unclear whether the website owners actively patrol for prohibited posts or whether they rely on users to flag a post as prohibited. Commenters suggested that using the website to find an unlicensed baby sitter was common.
Lester wrote that a few months after she decided not to have Smith watch her son, a friend e-mailed her, asking whether she had hired Smith. Lester said no, and her friend replied: “good because he was arrested for molesting children,” Lester wrote.
“To this day I am so very glad whatever was telling me no did because well we would be in the same boat as a lot of families,” she posted.
Others on RamsteinUnderground.com appear to be trying to piece together just how Smith fit into their lives within the tight-knit Kaiserslautern military community. Some are making connections to past incidents, which now — for them — take on new meanings.
“Michelle,” who says in her profile on the website that she has lived in the area since 2008 and is happily on her second stint there, wrote that one of Smith’s victims attacked her 8-year-old daughter at school last year. Now, she believes the girl “was just crying out for help.”
After the story broke on the Stars and Stripes website, readers began to comment there, too.
One airman said she worked with Smith at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. She said Smith was quiet when she first met him but warmed up as they got to know each other.
“He used to join us in the dorm BBQ’s ... You just never know,” the commenter, identified as “Aly,” wrote on Stars and Stripes website.
Another also wrote about socializing with Smith, who testified this week that he has two sons and is separated from his wife.
“We knew this guy. He’s been in our home, Played with our child. He has two children of his own ... What gets me is that he never seemed like this type. He was also shy and nice and seemed like a real genuine guy,” a poster identified as “LL” wrote on Stripes.com.
Like Lester, the poster considered using Smith as a baby sitter.
“Thank goodness for instincts because we both felt something was off and changed our minds ... who can you really trust? He wasn’t even a stranger to us,” LL posted.