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A jazz pianist pleads guilty to child-porn charges – and tries to explain

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It was an early spring evening when agents came to Bill Laursen's front door. His daughter had lived with him for about one year, and the two had just returned from Brookside to their home north of the river.

A jazz pianist who most recently had been playing with the Scamps, Laursen taught music part time at his daughter's school, the Kansas City Academy. After classes let out for the day, he gave piano lessons while his daughter waited for him at the Roasterie coffee shop.

Jess (her name has been changed in this story to protect her privacy) had been living with her mother in a small Missouri town but missed being near a bigger city. So she moved in with Laursen, then in his mid-50s. Before she moved in, they rarely spoke — at first, he didn't even know what foods she liked. But the relationship was improving.

"We were finally able to be really close, like much closer than some parents and kids," says Jess, a 15-year-old with honey-colored hair who wears a necklace with a miniature harmonica and has a blue-ball tongue piercing that flashes when she speaks. Jess also played the piano — and sang. "Most kids lie to their parents because their parents don't trust them, but with him I could talk."

They were making dinner when Jess saw two men on their porch, dressed in polo shirts and tennis shoes, as though they were planning a round of golf. Laursen met them at the door.

The men showed him badges and said they were agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Laursen says the lead agent told him, "We want to talk to you about immigration."

Laursen didn't believe him. After all, he thought, anyone could get a badge.

Laursen says he argued with the agents at the door for a while, refusing to let them in. Then he shifted his weight and let the door swing open a bit, and the lead agent grabbed the handle and pushed his way in.

"You might want to have your daughter in a different part of the house," the lead agent told him when he saw Jess in the living room.

Laursen looked at her. Jess could tell from his expression that she shouldn't argue. She went to her room and started writing in a notebook that she kept for song lyrics.

In the computer room, the lead agent was asking her father if he ever looked at pornography. If he ever looked at child pornography. The agents wanted to take his computer back to their lab.

Laursen knew he had child porn on his computer. Most of the images were girls about Jess' age in various states of undress.


On September 30, 2008, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Laursen's indictment on five counts of receiving child pornography over the Internet and one count of possessing child pornography, it was all over the TV news.

In addition to his job at the Kansas City Academy, Laursen also taught music at Community School #1 Elementary, a private school in Prairie Village. And there was his seat with the Scamps, the city's longest-running jazz band.

"It shocked the jazz community because he was so well-thought-of," says one close observer of the scene. "He wasn't one of the top players — there are a lot of good piano players in town — but he was a really nice person. People were just shocked."

Even if he wasn't one of the top players, he had to be good to get into the Scamps.

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