Warning, this story contains graphic content.
Children knew Karl Njolstad as the neighbour who would eagerly invite them over to make movies in his rowhouse basement, filming the kids in front of a green screen as they pretended to fly or swim.
But that’s not why Njolstad invited the children over — it was how he lured them into his home. Details emerged in court this week of a horrific sex crimes case, one involving numerous young victims, thousands of images of child pornography, and a total of 82 charges.
Njolstad, 57, pleaded guilty on Thursday to the first nine of those charges, admitting he sexually assaulted a seven-year-old girl and produced child pornography involving the girl and three other young female victims, all of whom he filmed secretly.
He kept the cameras rolling — some were concealed around a mirror, and some he adjusted remotely from an adjoining room — while asking the young children to change into swimsuits or costumes he insisted they bring to the “movie” shoots.
The charges include making and possessing child pornography, sexual touching and sexual interference of a minor — all of the victims were under 14 years old — forcible confinement and sexual assault.
Investigators uncovered a cache of child pornography in his home when they arrested Njolstad, who turned himself in to police two days after a disturbing sexual assault on Aug. 2, 2017 was reported to police.
Police initially said they feared there were more victims as they uncovered 6,330 images of child pornography, all alleged to be made by Njolstad. Of those, 5,334 were unique images. The others had been manipulated to insert his own naked body into images he allegedly took of naked children in sexually explicit poses.
Police also seized 27 videos. All were placed under court seal following Thursday’s hearing.
His guilty plea applies only to one set of charges, which date between June and August, 2017.
However, he faces dozens of further charges that have yet to be tested in court. Investigators laid those charges after his arrest.
Some of the charges date back 25 years and also involve young female children. It’s unclear how many total victims there are.
Crown prosecutor Marie Dufort said the new charges, laid as recently as September, are “as involved” as the original charges Njolstad pleaded guilty to, with “significant evidence.”
The names of the young victims he preyed upon, and any details that could identify them are shielded by a court-ordered publication ban.
Njolstad appeared somewhat confused in court Thursday as he eventually entered his guilty plea before Justice Jonathan Brunet.
“I’ve been really falling apart since I’ve been there (in custody at OCDC),” he said, appearing clean-shaven and frail, and entirely different from the smiling, bearded social media photos documenting visits to exotic locales like Thailand.
His lawyer stated in court Njolstad had suffered a “traumatic brain injury” while in jail after suffering an apparent seizure.
“I hit my head several times on the floor and was just left there for people to walk by,” he told the judge, saying he had difficulty with both his vision and hearing.
After several delays Thursday, Njolstad returned to the prisoner’s box wearing a hearing device and pleaded guilty, saying, “I want to be doing the right thing.”
He sat blankly and listened as the facts of the August 2017 sexual assault were entered into the court record. They read like a nightmare.
“Work before fun,” Njolstad told the four children who visited his rowhouse unit that morning to play with a karaoke machine.
The tech-savvy one-time public servant would promise pop and candy as he instructed the children to change into swimsuits and costumes for his “green screen” sessions.
He would have the boys change in the bathroom while the girls used his upstairs bedroom, where one 11-year-old girl spotted a pair of cameras facing her as she changed.
When she noticed the cameras were on and turned them to face the wall she heard Njolstad call out “Oops!” as he came in to remove the cameras.
He had other “rewards” for the seven-year-old girl, and promised her prizes from bubbles to DVDs for her participation in his “tests.”
In the first such “test,” he would have the child strip naked while he was out of the room monitoring and recording, as he instructed her to spread her legs apart and bend at the waist in “an X-position.”
He told her to count to 20. “If he’s in a good mood,” the victim told investigators, she would only have to count to 10.
The second test was a “taste test” as he forced the unwitting young girl into oral sex, first blindfolding her with a silk scarf and securing it with green painter’s tape, then leaving and re-entering the room with a different substance on his genitals, instructing the girl each time to “guess what kind of food.”
The blindfolded girl would tell him she believed it to be a gummy bear and would name flavours like honey, peanut butter, chocolate, ketchup and mustard — and he’d tell her she was correct and would ask if she wanted to continue for “the big prize.”
Videos entered into the court record were shown only to the judge and none of the materials were aired in open court.
“This is gross,” she complained at one point, and he scolded the child for stopping too soon, saying she would have to perform another “X-test” if she wanted the prize.
The prize was a fidget spinner.
While the first set of charges involves four victims, the sexual contact was restricted to the seven-year-old girl.
The Crown said other cases uncovered by police are equally significant to that one. The charge sheets contain disturbing allegations, each related to the sexual assault of numerous minors.
There are 82 charges in all.
One set of charges from April 1993 to December 1994 involves an unidentified “blindfolded female child” sexually touching Njolstad.
Another from the same time period involves “images of (multiple) naked children in sexually explicit positions.”
Another from 1995 involves an unidentified “naked female child.”
Two other young victims were identified in sexual assaults that spanned January 1996 to June 2005.
Those charges are still before the court. Njolstad is due to appear in court again in January for sentencing.
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