By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"Bill Kamal gets a five-year sentence -- and he didn't even touch a kid," Levine says ruefully of the WSVN-TV (Channel 7) weather forecaster, who was arrested last year in a child-molestation sting operation. "And this guy gets to just go free!"
Through sheer force of personality, Levine has peeled back the layers of bureaucracy surrounding the Rehman case and relentlessly made noise to keep the hunt for Rehman alive. Her charging-bull style has become an embarrassment for those who'd just as soon forget the whole debacle. She ruffles feathers.
"Don't get me wrong on this," says one person who's helped Levine. "Jaemi Levine is a sweetheart of a woman, but she is a pain in the ass." Indeed, a conversation with Levine at times can lapse into a combination of Spanish Inquisition and conspiracy-theory free-for-all. For her, the missteps in the case are too numerous to chalk up as coincidence.
Driving her is a pugnacious protectiveness for her daughter. In fact, a barrage of phone calls she made to her tardy daughter during her episode with Rehman inadvertently spooked him, perhaps saving the girl from a worse fate.
Levine is short with a stocky build, longish brunet hair, and brown eyes that often seem on the verge of tears. She'd probably be a chain smoker if she could light up inside the family's Coral Springs home, but she limits the habit to outdoors. She's a stay-at-home mom, and the house is a magnet for kids on the block.
It's a typical family home by today's standards, a 21st-century Brady Bunch -- but with five kids, four cats, and a beagle but without the Bradys' cheery housemaid. Divorced with three children, Levine last fall married Mitch Levine, her high school sweetheart, a laconic man with wispy blond hair and a fondness for overweight cats. An owner of a Jaguar repair shop, he has a 22-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.
Jaemi's oldest, 17-year-old Jackie, a curly haired blond with a flair for the dramatic, recently moved to the Gainesville area to live with family friends. Her 11-year-old son, who inherited his mother's eyes, is inquisitive, friendly, and full of boyish optimism: He recently found a broken-legged grackle chick and fed it with an eyedropper until its untimely demise.
But this story is about Levine's middle child, Stephanie. (At the family's request, New Times has given her a pseudonym. The family did not allow her to be interviewed on the advice of her therapist.) Stephanie has long, straight, brunet hair and an oval face. Like her mother, she possesses a compact build, which shows signs of nascent puberty. "She is still a little girl," sister Jackie says. "She plays with toys. She likes puppies. She's silly. And she's in band." To stress her point, Jackie exclaims, "She plays a brass instrument!"
Sometime last year, Stephanie posted her profile on America Online's People Connection, a site that has no overt age restrictions for users. Her personal information, however, was typical of a "'tween," an age span when the siren call of adolescence beckons but the playthings of childhood hold sway. Her interests? "Soccer, hangin out wit friends, dancing, chillyn at the movies." Her sign-on name refers to her love of puppies.
Stephanie and two of her friends also posted several pictures of themselves taken at a backyard pool. Stephanie was dressed in a modest yellow bikini, and the pictures were not -- in an adult sense, anyhow -- erotic.
It is in this vast network of naive, even childlike postings that sexual predators troll. Each site provides an instant-message address, and messages sent that way pop up immediately on the recipient's computer screen.
"They post these things for their friends," Levine says. "Some guy who's a pedophile who wants 12- to 14-year-olds in Coral Springs, he can go on there and get a laundry list of victims. They know what they're doing. They're skilled at instant-messaging people until they find a weak link. My daughter was a weak link."
Jaemi Levine says she knew something was wrong not long after Stephanie had left the house the morning of August 7, 2004. The girl had pleaded with her mother to let her walk to a nearby Barnes & Noble bookstore to meet a friend. Levine was working on invitations for her October wedding, and none of the older kids was available to go with her.
"Usually, they have to go together on the buddy system," Levine explains. "I'm very protective. It was 10 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday. I didn't think there was any reason she couldn't go around the block and be safe. I made her take a cell phone with her. I gave her a time limit."
But when her curfew passed, Levine called her. "She sounded funny," she recalls. "Definitely uncomfortable." Stephanie told her mother she was walking home. With the same forcefulness she'd show in the months to come, Levine got in her car to find her, but she wasn't at the location she'd described. Levine called again. "She kept telling me, I'm here, no I'm here. She'd say, 'No, you've got that wrong. I'm on this block.' I was getting frightened. I had a very bad gut-mom feeling."