Interviews, transcripts provide more details about woman who was kept as sex slave in Palm Beach County

Date: 2010-03-16

By Eliot Kleinberg, The Palm Beach Post

"Debbie O" worked with Stephen Arthur Seagoe in the mid-1980s at Solitron Devices in Riviera Beach.

"He seemed to be a really nice guy raising Jackie by himself," the former colleague, who did not want her full name used, said Friday.

But, authorities now say, Stephen wasn't Stephen. And he wasn't a nice guy.

He was convicted child molester and fugitive George Joseph England.

And "Jackie" was Jackie Zudis, the then-teenager he'd bought in Vietnam as a 5-year-old and claimed as his daughter but kept as a sex slave.

Federal prosecutors last week charged England, now 66, with transporting Zudis across state lines as a minor for sexual activity.

"Today's charges will prevent a notorious convicted child molester from preying on other children," Jeffrey Sloman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said Friday in a statement.

Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney for California's Orange County, was meeting with reporters Thursday, bemoaning that England was about to walk out of prison after serving three years for child molestation, when an aide alerted him England would instead be heading to South Florida to face the new federal charges.

Zudis waived California privacy laws protecting her anonymity, prosecutors there said Thursday, "to publicize the crimes committed against her by England and the danger he poses to society."

"I think there's just a plain evilness. I'm still paying for everything he's done," Zudis said in a 45-minute interview taped by the FBI last week in South Florida.

Now 42, married and living in Palm Beach County, according to prosecutors and databases, she's been overwhelmed by interview requests and isn't speaking to reporters.

After years of abuse and after breaking all ties to Seagoe, Zudis contacted the FBI in 2004, according to a federal affidavit.

In interviews videotaped in South Florida, Zudis detailed her years in bondage:

In 1972, England, who'd left the Army six years earlier, was working as a civilian contractor in Vietnam. It was there he met Zudis' mother and bought the 5-year-old.

England then moved through Asia with Zudis before settling in Southern California, claiming her as his adopted daughter.

All the time, she said, England sexually assaulted her, as often as five times a week. He also supplied her with alcohol, starting when she was 7.

He encouraged her to bring her friends over to spend the night at their motor home.

He had drilled a hole in the wall from his bedroom into the bathroom and watched her and her friends, even photographing them as they bathed.

Finally, in July 1977, England was charged with molesting three of Zudis' friends, who were 9 to 10 years old, over the previous year, always when Zudis had fallen asleep.

In October 1977, a California court convicted England of numerous felony counts. On bond while awaiting sentencing, he took Zudis from protective custody and fled to Florida.

Landing first in Fort Lauderdale, England obtained a birth certificate, Social Security number, driver's license and passport as Stephen Seagoe, a child born a year after him but who had died in 1947 in Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, when he was only 11 months old.

"Seagoe" got work as an electrician and enrolled Zudis in school.

All the while, the sexual assaults continued. He also forced her to perform sex acts with him and others, at times watching through a hole he had drilled in the wall.

By the time she was 16, England had impregnated Zudis five times. Four pregnancies had ended in abortions.

The first occurred when she was 13. The child was put up for adoption.

That was around the time "Debbie O" says England, as Stephen Seagoe, went to work for Solitron in Riviera Beach.

"I only wish that I had paid more attention to my instincts, but I was only 28 at the time and still had an innocence about me," Debbie said last week.

A Solitron official said the company had no record of Seagoe's employment but said it is required to keep records for only seven years.

Jay Tenzer, of Palm Beach Gardens, now retired, recalls being Seagoe's supervisor.

"He didn't stand out in my mind as being anything unusual," Tenzer said. "He did not work for us too long as far as I can recall."

Debbie said Seagoe, who had been in charge of a communications lab, told her his wife had walked out on him.

"I thought that that was a tough go for him and his child," she said.

She said Seagoe told her he was home-schooling Zudis because he wanted to protect her from boys.

In 1988, when she was 21, Zudis married and moved out of England's home.

Eight years later, in 1995, Zudis severed all contact with him. It would be nearly another decade before she got up the nerve to go to authorities. She didn't know where he might be, but the FBI was able to add an alias to the warrant. That did it.

In May 2005, England, then living on a yacht in West Palm Beach, according to California prosecutors, was nabbed as he tried to obtain a passport as Seagoe. He went to federal prison for 14 months, then was imprisoned on the California convictions.

But under lenient 1977 sentencing guidelines, England would serve no more than six years. On Friday, he was supposed to walk out of Corcoran State Prison in central California.

Rackauckas called a news conference to warn residents.

"I am sickened that my office has been denied legal recourse to keep this child molester locked up away from children," he said.

Minutes later he learned the feds would be making sure that didn't happen.

Palm Beach Post staff writer Michael LaForgia and staff researcher Niels Heimeriks contributed to this story.

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