Ronald Brown appeared in a federal courtroom long enough for a bond hearing to be postponed. The 57-year-old's legs were shackled as he learned he will remain locked up for the time being.
His attorney later told reporters Brown is innocent. "He's not involved with this, he wouldn't do something like this," said Tampa attorney Eric Kuske.
But federal agents say the evidence they uncovered in Brown's Largo home suggests otherwise. They say that evidence includes disturbing images of child porn, like pictures of young boys with their hands and feet bound by ropes, and at least one where a child appears to be dead.
Stacy Gaughan was disgusted, but not surprised by the allegations. She says, for years, Brown has spent an unusual amount of time with children in the neighborhood. The puppeteer was known for taking kids with him to church and also for hosting pizza nights at his home for groups of children at least once a week.
"They'd come with their bikes and their skateboards and they'd hang out, waiting for him to come home," Gaughan said.
What neighbors say they never imagined are highly graphic conversations that agents say Brown admitted to having with another man online. Transcripts show the two men talked at length about the best way to kill children as young as two years old. They'd then describe in detail how to cut them up, cook them and eat their remains.
The other man, Michael Arnett of Kansas, was also arrested as part of an online child porn sting. "It's not just gross, it's beyond any concept," Gaughan said. "Where do you come up with things like that?"
Arrest affidavits show Brown discussed killing, dismembering and eating a specific boy at Gulf Coast Church. Brown later told investigators "it was just a fantasy and he could never and would never hurt anyone."