The woman accused of posing in decade-old photographs depicting child pornography suffered a seizure before her scheduled appearance in court on Monday and it remains unclear when she will be able to enter a plea, federal officials said.
Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, of North Hills, was hospitalized after suffering a seizure in lockup and was hospitalized, according to a federal court document.
Montemayor was arrested Thursday, just hours after authorities released her photograph to the media in connection with producing child pornography.
Investigators with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement received five tips on her whereabouts. Montemayor is charged with two criminal counts - one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography and one count of production of child pornography.
Montemayor is believed to be the woman who appears along with a still unidentified man in pornographic photos of a child dubbed the "Jen Series," which federal officials discovered in Chicago in 2007. The series has been recovered in the collections of about 275 other child pornography suspects across the country.
Upon her arrest on Thursday, Montemayor also suffered a seizure and was hospitalized.
Montemayor was identified both through her facial appearance and tattoos - a black butterfly on her right hip, a curled up cat on her right shoulder, writing on her left wrist and an unknown design above her left breast, all described in a criminal
The images show an unidentified girl, then between 11 and 14 years old, being abused by a woman believed to be Montemayor, as well as a man in his 40s or 50s. He is still wanted by authorities.
"Our investigative efforts related to this case are still very much ongoing, with the goal being to identify/locate John Doe and the female victim," said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for the Western Regional division of ICE. "To that end, we are following up on a number of promising leads."
Meanwhile, Montemayor's son, Paul Tucker, told television reporters on Friday that while his mother was the woman in the photographs, she could not be involved in pornography. He told KABC (Channel 7) news that the victim's name was Kiki, and she had claimed to be an adult.
"When I had spoken with the girl way back when, when we were living in the hotel, we were being told that she was 18. That's what she had said to us, that she was 18 but she just looked younger," Tucker told KABC news. Tucker also told KCBS (Channel 2) news that his mother was working as a prostitute at the time and they were living in a motel on Sepulveda Boulevard. He also said Montemayor knew the alleged victim's mother.
"The story we had gotten from her was that her mother was prostituting her and that maybe my mom had gotten in a fight with her mother," he told reporters. "She said her mother had left her high and dry with a drug habit."
Tucker also said to reporters he did not know who the unidentified man in the photo was, but that he likely was a potential client and Montemayor was supposed to check him out before he paid for sex with the girl.
Kice said Tucker's claims that the victim was 18 do not match the conclusion made by a physician at Los Angeles County Medical Center who is a recognized expert on sexual abuse.
"In her professional assessment, the victim was approximately 13 at the time the abuse occurred," Kice said.
The Jen Series consists of about 40 photos that appeared to be taken in 2001 at an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, possibly in Encino - based on a calendar from a local business, a Yellow Pages phonebook and cable box that appear in the photos.
When they were discovered in 2007, law enforcement turned to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's, Child Victim Identification Program for help. The unit was formed in 2002 and has since reviewed 80 million images and has identified 5,000 victims, said Michelle Collins, vice president of the exploited children division at the center.
Victims of sexual abuse shown in photographs or films seldom come forward, Collins said.
"The actual image of the abuse is what keeps these victims silent," Collins said. "Not only is the child violated and abused, but the offender also memorializes it."
The ongoing investigation into the "Jen Series' however, has cast a wider awareness on child pornography and serves as a warning to offenders.
"The importance is holding an offender accountable for what they've done," Collins said. "It's not too hard to assume that someone who harmed a child then are harming another child now. It's also sending a message to offenders who are producing images that law enforcement is very aggressive."
Anyone with information that can assist in the investigation is urged to call 1-866-DHS-2ICE.