IN EARLY MARCH 1991 half a dozen police officers arrived at the East Dallas YMCA and handcuffed a young child-care employee named David Wayne Jones. At the time, the nineteen-year-old’s arrest could not have come as more of a shock to parents and his managers. Jones was known around the Y as a bubbly, tireless worker whom kids referred to as Super Dave and whom moms trusted enough to hire as a babysitter after hours. But when a seven-year-old boy accused Jones of touching him inappropriately in the bathtub, an investigation revealed that he was an unrelenting child predator, one who, almost daily, took advantage of the kids he cared for. Included in the allegations made by more than a dozen victims were claims that Jones used tickle games and play-wrestling as opportunities to fondle them, that he would become aroused when they sat in his lap, and that he would sometimes show up to babysit without wearing underwear. Jones would eventually confess to molesting more than forty children, pleading guilty to nineteen charges, including two first degree felony counts of aggravated sexual assault, making him one of the most prolific pedophiles in the history of Dallas County.
That was thirteen years ago. These days, Jones insists he’s a different person. “A lot of how I’ve changed has nothing to do with sex,” he told me one morning last spring at the Goree Unit, in Huntsville, a few months before he was scheduled for release. “I’ve grown up.” Indeed, sitting across from me in a cramped visitors room, Jones, now 33, looked more like an ambitious young advertising executive, or maybe a congressional aide, than an infamous convicted pedophile. His hair and Vandyke beard were perfectly trimmed. His hazel eyes were clear and sparkled with energy behind small wire-rimmed glasses. Occasionally, he would lean forward in his chair, in the time-honored manner of the salesman, and make his case in a fluid baritone. “I’ve reached the point where I don’t have confidence in my lies anymore,” he said. “And I know I can no longer find comfort in a child fantasy.” Jones talked about the rigorous treatment protocol he’d been through, the years he’d worked in therapy to alter his sexual desires, and the compassion he now feels for his victims.