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Costa Mesa nanny convicted as serial molester

A Costa Mesa man was convicted Tuesday of sex crimes against 17 boys he had been hired to babysit from 2014 to 2019, charges that can bring him life in prison.

Prosecutors said Matthew Zakrzewski, 30, lured parents to his babysitting service and then sexually abused the children entrusted to his care. The victims ranged from 2 to 14 years old.

“The defendant was a mastermind at preying upon these families, not just grooming the children but grooming the parents,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Juliet Oliver told jurors.

The prosecution’s case was bolstered by an enormous stash of photos and videos Zakrzewski had taken of himself molesting kids. He recorded his crimes obsessively and kept the collection “like a treasure, like some sort of medal,” Oliver said.

An Orange County jury convicted Zakrzewski of 34 counts of sex crimes, including lewd and lascivious acts on children and possession of child pornography, after a three-week trial in Santa Ana. Prosecutors said he molested 16 of the boys and showed pornography to the 17th.

During his years as a self-employed nanny, Zakrzewski advertised himself as especially skilled with special-needs children, which made him appealing to parents who desperately needed help.

A Laguna Beach woman whose 8-year-old son was molested by Zakrzewski testified that her son had disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and that Zakrzewski seemed kind and patient. She was impressed by photos he had posted online of himself playing with kids.

“There just looked like a lot of joy,” the mother said, adding “there were lots of reviews saying he was a wonderful caregiver.” He told her he understood children with emotional difficulties and knew how to redirect their attention when they had meltdowns.

In some cases, prosecutor Oliver told jurors, the victims “really loved the defendant” and endured sexual abuse “not even knowing it was wrong.”

In one case, a 7-year-old boy he had molested broke into tears when a forensic interviewer showed him Zakrzewski’s photo. The boy was sad that “the person he thinks was his friend, was his buddy, was his mentor” wouldn’t babysit him anymore, the prosecutor said.

The investigation began in May 2019 when a Laguna Beach family told police Zakrzewski had inappropriately touched their son. Police soon found many more victims.

“He fooled everyone,” Oliver told jurors in her closing argument Monday. “He fooled every parent. He fooled every child. And he fooled every victim.”

Zakrzewski devoted himself to “years of grooming and normalizing and perfecting the art of exploiting these children sexually,” the prosecutor said. “He hunted every child in this case. He had a how-to book on it. But he could have written the book on it, from what you’ve seen in this case.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger will sentence Zakrzewski on Nov. 17.

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