"Neil, you got to give it up, man," one of the detectives said. "I know you can talk. I know you're an extremely intelligent person. I know you made those papers." That's when he shined his flashlight into Rodreick's face and noticed the makeup.

By the time an official from Child Protection Services arrived to whisk the boy to safety, little Casey no longer existed. In his place was the weirdest case the detectives had ever handled.

"So the scam," she asked the police, "is that this dude and somebody else is scamming these two old guys? For what—money?" She pressed them: "You guys are positive he's not underage?"

"Positive," a detective replied.

Among the Digimon cards and robot toys the detectives uncovered in Rodreick's room that night was a dopp kit full of razors and jars of makeup. Searching the computer in Casey's—Rodreick's—room, they found its hard drive loaded with child pornography. The home was a nest of pedophilia: thousands of images and videos on computers, CDs, and 8mm tapes stashed in shoeboxes. One item, according to a police report, appeared to be an old motel-room video of Rodreick—his face clearly visible—and a young blond male, somewhere between 10 and 13, engaging in mutual masturbation and anal and oral sex.

Detectives had seen such horrendous images before, but the final twist was still to come. The two older men had already confessed to having sexual relations with Rodreick. But when the detectives asked the boy's "grandpa" why they'd bought so many nice things for a 29-year-old, they found themselves in utter disbelief again: The older men said they were just as shocked to learn that Rodreick wasn't 12. In fact, they were furious.

Neil Havens Rodreick II was born in Los Angeles County. When he was 3, his family moved to Hobart, a shrinking farm town in southwestern Oklahoma where his mother, Joann, was born. His father, an affable guy, was a deputy in the sheriff's department. Joann, a cute woman with short almond-colored hair and a contagious smile, cleaned houses. She'd once wallpapered the dome of the family's church. Several kids from Joann's previous marriage also lived in their old antique-filled 13-room house near Main Street.

But Jan Bautista, Rodreick's aunt, had always felt that "there's something really wrong upstairs" with her nephew. "When he was 3, all he could say was mama, dada, and bye-bye," she says. At age 11, Bautista says, the boy collapsed in his mother's lap in tears after his father told him to do a chore. "He was a real mama's boy, a crybaby," she says.

Tragedy shattered the family when Rodreick was 15. One morning, as he and his mother prepared for school and work, they had a bad argument. The two would never reconcile: Later that day, she died of a brain aneurysm. "I don't think he's ever gotten over it," Bautista says. The local police and fire departments attended the funeral, sending off a beloved member of their community. Bautista says she'll never forget what she saw later that day. Opening the door to the parents' bedroom, she found her nephew alone. "He was going through all of her jewelry, piece by piece," Bautista says. "Just reminiscing. He'd hold one up and just kind of look at it for a while, put it back in the drawer, and pick up another."