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Though his family had spent some years in Phoenix, Gates grew up in southern Oregon, then returned to Arizona in the mid-'80s to go to a technical school where he learned to be a computer draftsman. He was a devout Christian, fond of Christian music. And when he applied as a Sunday-school teacher at Calvary Chapel in north Phoenix, he detailed his dedication to Jesus on his application form. "He is my father," he wrote.
After Gates' arrest, Glendale police found his diary, a childish book with a picture of the cartoon character Ziggy on the cover and the title "Afterthoughts to Think About."
On the very first pages, he introduced himself, writing, "Somewhere along the line, I developed a growing love for children. Unfortunately, this also brought on an attraction to young girls, a sin with which I struggle every day. Although I know I could never hurt a child, I pray unceasingly that God would help me overcome this attraction. I know God has removed several girls from my life because of this lust and it breaks my heart."
Like many pedophiles, Gates interacted better with children than with adults, perhaps because he is so childlike himself.
In 1991, in a presentencing letter to the judge, Gates' boss wrote, "Simply put, Doug is a 12-year-old boy in a 24-year-old body, and I judge his actions accordingly. If you had a chance to see Doug, I am confident you would see a preadolescent boy standing before you."
Gates was everything a parent would look for in a Sunday-school teacher. He was devout, and he seemed so gentle and trustworthy that parents were willing to overlook that he was a single man in his 20s with few apparent adult relationships.
He was so trusted that one mother left her 10-year-old daughter to live with him after she had been evicted from her apartment for shooting her live-in boyfriend.
Pedophiles often truly care about the children they molest, their love attachments misguided or fixated on an age they never outgrew. But their methods of finding children are downright predatory, and Gates was no exception.
"Every single one of his victims has a single mother," says Detective Bruce Foremny, "all poor, divorced families with a lot of distractions who are really looking for someone to be there for their kids and to help them out."
Carla, the 14-year-old who discovered the camera, had been molested a year earlier, and Gates had offered himself to her mother as a "counselor"--though he had no credentials to do so. Paula, the child who was living with him, came from a family fragmented by divorce or domestic violence, as did his favorite child, Sierra. (The names of all the children have been changed.)
Gates would befriend girls at his apartment complex, then meet the girls' friends. He would get to know the mothers, none of whom were members of his church, then recruit the girls for his Sunday-school class, and even drive them there twice a week.
All of his young students would fill out a questionnaire stating their favorite foods and movies, whether they liked swimming or collecting stickers. It was a seemingly innocent set of questions, but the answers, in the hands of a pedophile, become a road map to seduction.
Sprinkled into the childish prattle of Gates' diary--"God bless Sierra," and "God bless Paula" and accounts of the adorable child he saw at the movies--were hints at the sexual conflict playing out in Gates' psyche. "Satan has been filling my head with lies," he would write. "God help me."
Sometime in 1990, as near as anyone could tell, Satan began to get the upper hand. Gates set up his video camera on his night table.
Gates' tapes are more voyeuristic than sensual, more pathetic than scandalous. He would appear in the frame, peer into the camera to check the angles. If a little boy would go into the bedroom to change, he would gruffly send him off to change in the bathroom.
For ten- and 15-minute stretches, the camera would focus blankly on the bedroom wall, and then 10-year-old Sierra would enter with her little brother and lovingly help him in and out of his bathing suit as she changed her own, the two of them giggling and cackling and tickling each other.
Other little girls would play with dolls on the bed, or throw towels at each other. Interspersed with the bedroom scenes would be an occasional birthday party. In one segment, Gates filmed a pool party, his camera zooming in on each bathing suit that has slipped enough to reveal an inch of buttocks or a 10-year-old's nipple, or on two little girls playfully mooning each other.
On one tape, Gates had assembled a montage of still photographs of children in various states of innocent undress, photos taken from art books or medical texts, tiny children posed naked with their parents on the beach, pictures of Third World children that might have come from National Geographic, little girls caught unaware with a pubescent breast showing through the armhole of a blouse, undeveloped genitals visible beneath a skirt. One picture taken from an ancient movie magazine shows a 6-year-old Natalie Wood, topless, feeding milk to a pet cat.