Daniel Acker – Serial Pedophile – Preyed on boys over 30 years

“He preyed on at-risk boys, those with no strong father figure in their lives,” Wentlandt said. “We believe we’ve only scratched the surface in people we’ve talked to.”

The first accuser came forward after he saw Acker walking into an area middle school, Wentlandt said. The victim contacted the recreation department, saying he couldn’t believe Acker was still working there with young children.

A 61-year-old man who works as a part-time aquatics program coordinator for the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation Department was in jail Thursday, suspected of sexually assaulting young boys for more than 30 years, authorities said.

Daniel Acker of Waukesha was arrested Monday during a swim practice at West Milwaukee Middle School, said Deputy Inspector Bradley Wentlandt of the Greenfield Police Department. Acker is suspected of assaulting boys between the ages of 7 and 15 from the 1970s to 2008, police said.

Acker is suspected in hundreds of assaults involving dozens of children over the years, police said. Some of the assaults are alleged to have occurred in Greenfield.

Daniel Acker’s obsession with missing children and a “strange infatuation with child murders” prompted Greenfield police to ask federal investigators to see whether there are ties between the man accused of dozens of sexual assaults and children who have disappeared since the 1970s, a Greenfield police investigator said Friday.

Police who searched the basement of 61-year-old Acker’s Waukesha home this week found a model police station, featuring a dozen photos of abducted and murdered children pasted to the inside walls; journals with hundreds of pages written on Jacob Wetterling and John Zera, a boy abducted and found dead in Whitnall Park in 1975; and 1970s model cars with the names and dates of death of abducted and murdered children written by Acker on the bottom.

There is no information right now to suggest that Acker is a suspect in any of the killings, but evidence has been turned over to the FBI and other local police agencies for further investigation, Deputy Inspector Bradley Wentlandt of the Greenfield Police Department said in a news conference Friday morning.

Acker in the 1970’s

FBI spokesman Leonard Peace said the bureau is assisting in the case. He said he could not comment further because it is an open investigation.

A prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the Acker case, said Paul Kanter, chief of the criminal division.

Acker in the 1980’s

“The FBI has been in touch with us,” Kanter said. “At this point in time we have not identified any federal crime.”

Acker remains locked up in Milwaukee County Jail while a team of Greenfield police continue their work into allegations that started on Monday accusing him of sexually assaulting boys between the ages of 7 and 15 going back to the 1970s.

“He preyed on at-risk boys, those with no strong father figure in their lives,” Wentlandt said. “We believe we’ve only scratched the surface in people we’ve talked to.”

Police held the news conference Friday to see whether other accusers will come forward in light of the news released Thursday that Acker, who works as a part-time aquatics program coordinator for the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation Department, had been jailed on suspicion of sexually assaulting young boys for more than 30 years.

Acker in the 1990’s

Acker was arrested Monday during a swim practice at West Milwaukee Middle School after a man in his 40s told police Monday that Acker had sexually assaulted him from 1971 to 1976, when he was between 11 and 15 years old. Since then, at least three other men in their 40s – including one who now lives in Tennessee – and a 19-year-old have told police they had been sexually assaulted by Acker when they were minors, Wentlandt said.

The first accuser came forward after he saw Acker walking into an area middle school, Wentlandt said. The victim contacted the recreation department, saying he couldn’t believe Acker was still working there with young children.

Acker was arrested in the hours after police received a tip from Michele Strasser, coordinator of recreation for West Allis-West Milwaukee.

Strasser said Friday: “Myself, our staff, our whole community, this has taken a toll. Kids are the most important to us and their safety.”

The statute of limitations in child sexual assault cases that was in place in the 1970s may prevent authorities from being able to prosecute those cases, Wentlandt said. The statute of limitations in such cases has since been extended.

But the 19-year-old told police that Acker has assaulted him starting about five years ago and that the two remained in a relationship as of earlier this week, Wentlandt said. Police are trying to see whether there are other younger victims.

Wentlandt said Acker didn’t have any of his own children, but said he had three foster children – all boys – that he had cared for during the past decade. Police are trying to make contact with those former foster children, Wentlandt said.

“We believe we’ve only scratched the surface with the victims we’ve talked to already,” Wentlandt said. “We believe there are more victims out there.”

Police are asking those victims to call investigators at (414) 761-5301.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, at least 50 callers had phoned Greenfield Police to share what they know, to suggest potential victims or to talk about being victimized by Acker.

Within moments of news reports featuring four decades of photos of the Acker, calls were coming in at one per minute at the department, where seven sworn officers and detectives have been assigned to answer those calls specifically. Wentlandt said calls are continuing to come in this afternoon at 3 to 4 per hour.

“We will have people throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow and the next day, if necessary,” said Greenfield Deputy Inspector Bradley Wentlandt. “We don’t want to take messages. If someone gets the courage to call in, we want to make sure it’s taken by an investigator who can get the right information.”

A number of people contacted the Journal Sentinel Friday to say their children were or had been students of Acker’s.

Angie Aide of West Allis said she had to tell her daughter about Acker this morning at breakfast.

“My heart just dropped,” Aide said. Her 8-year-old daughter took swimming classes with Acker for two years. Acker substituted as an instructor for Aide’s daughter just last week.

Acker played dodge ball with the kids. He’d joke with them when they sprayed water on him with pool noodles. “The parents got a chuckle out if it,” Aide said. And Acker would talk to the kids “on their level.”

Aide said she always sat in the bleachers at the recreation center when Acker taught classes. When the kids were told “Mr. Dan” would be teaching the classes, they would cheer, Aide said.

Melissa Luck of West Allis said that as a swim instructor, Acker had a great rapport with children, especially with her 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, who took a class with him last fall.

“My daughter loved him, loved him, told him she loved him all the time,” she said.

Luck, who said she herself was molested as a child by someone she knew, now worries about the many youths who took group or private lessons with Acker and the teens who helped him teach swimming.

She also said the news of his arrest has been hard on Taylor.

“She said Momma, Mr. Dan broke my heart,” Luck said.

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