Update: Video Report On OPETH Bus Driver's Arrest Available Online

November 15, 2005

WTSP, Tampa Bay's 10 News, has posted a video report on the arrest of OPETH's bus driver Leon Rodney Whitman Jr. (photo, charge report) on charges of several counts of unlawful activity with a minor, computer pornography and interference with custody, all felony charges. Watch the report online at this location. Whitman was being held Monday at Orient Road Jail, with bail set at $33,000, records show.

Tampa Tribune is reporting that authorities are investigating whether Whitman victimized other youngsters after learning a 16-year-old girl was lured to Tampa for sex, police said.

Whitman Jr., 47, kept a digital camera with 240 digital pictures of at least seven other women, some appearing to be underage, aboard the tour bus for the band OPETH, Tampa police Detective O.P. Parrish said.

The band played at The State Theater in St. Petersburg on Saturday night. Members knew nothing of Whitman's alleged activities, Parrish said.

Parrish said he is working with the FBI's Innocent Images Task Force to analyze the photos and a computer found in Whitman's room at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel on West Kennedy Boulevard.

Police arrested Whitman, of Swartz Creek, Mich., early Sunday after a patrol officer saw a 16-year-old walking alone about 3 a.m. near West Azeele Street and South West Shore Boulevard. Upset and despondent, the girl told the officer she was from Flint, Mich., and staying with Whitman at the hotel, Parrish said.

Whitman had met the girl in her neighborhood in the past year and stayed in touch with her, Parrish said. Whitman told her about his job and offered to take her to Los Angeles and Hollywood if she met him in Tampa, according to Parrish.

"From what I gather, she was a very naive girl," Parrish said. "They get promised all these great things: 'I can make you a movie star. I do photo shoots.' "

At the time of his arrest, Whitman had a business card advertising, "Calendar Girls of Florida," Parrish said.

Parrish said the girl lives with her mother, with whom she has had trouble recently. Without a word to anyone, the girl accepted the AirTran Airways ticket Whitman bought her and arrived in Tampa at 3:07 p.m. Saturday, the detective said.

The girl's parents reported her missing, Parrish said. Meanwhile, Whitman took the girl to a CVS drugstore and a Wal-Mart for some small items, including a six-pack of Budweiser, according to Parrish.

Whitman took the girl to the hotel, where he pressured her for sex, Parrish said. "He kept telling her, 'Come on.' She felt pressured because she's in Tampa, she has no money and he's controlling things," the detective said.

Whitman videotaped the encounter and photographed the girl, Parrish said. He also paid her $200. When police found the video camera, the girl told them about the digital camera, Parrish said.

The girl's mother flew to Tampa on Sunday to take her home, the detective said.

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