You know what they say. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
That was what residents or rural Jasper County thought in January of 2009, when poorly-written handmade signs started popping up along backroads offering dirt cheap babysitting services.
How cheap? How about $12 for an entire weekend for up to four children.
Wow. What a deal. What's the catch?
Well, like the sign said, the children all had to be females. What's more, they needed to be between 11 months and nine years old.
And then there was the whole matter of the babysitter: 55 year-old Thomas Louis Van Hooks had been convicted over the years of exposing himself to three little girls -- a three-year-old, a four-year-old, and a six-year-old -- but by then, he was off parole and there were no stipulations that he stay away from children.
And make no mistake: as if his fledgling babysitting business didn't offer enough of a hint he was not reformed, there was his dream of helping to direct more erotic diapers commercials.
In 2004, he was alleged to have written Proctor & Gamble, the parent company of Pampers, a letter outlining 12 ways they could do more to show the genital area of little girls in their TV commercials. According to the Beaumont Examiner : "One scenario was that Pampers' commercials should show a little girl laying on a couch for a diaper change and the cameras could show her, 'with her little legs wide open.'"
The seven-page letter went on to express a belief that diaper wipes should be used on girls as old as nine and closed thusly: "there should not be a problem of your showing a nine-year-old girl's beautiful, pretty little hairless ..."
Proctor & Gamble's head of corporate security forwarded the letter to Jasper County authorities.
Van Hook was arrested in January of last year and charged with failing to comply with his sex offender registration -- a spokesperson for the Jasper County District Attorney's office tells Hair Balls that Van Hook failed to inform authorities about the nature of his employment. On raiding his house, cops hauled away several garbage bags full of what they described as "sexual paraphernalia," including dolls.
He had been held on $300,000 bond ever since then and yesterday he was convicted. He faces a Jasper County jury today in his punishment phase. We'll update when his sentence comes in, but we think it's safe to predict that Van Hook won't be doing much babysitting any time soon.
Update: Indeed, the babysitting business will have to wait for quite some time...After a mere half-hour of deliberations, the Jasper County jury of 7 women and 5 men sent Van Hook to prison for 40 years yesterday.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.