A Costa Mesa nanny used his job to gain trust with parents to get access to their young boys in order to film himself sexually abusing them under the guise of playing with them, Orange County prosecutors said on the first day of the man’s trial Thursday, Sept. 7.
Deputy District Attorney Juliet Oliver said that through his nanny service, Matthew Antonio Zakrzewski, 34, persuaded more than a dozen families across Southern California to hire him to take care of their children starting in 2014.
For five years, Zakrzewski advertised his experience working with children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities, Oliver said. Of the children he watched, Zakrzewski molested 17 of them, she said. The youngest was just 2 or 3 years old.
“(Zakrzewski) systematically babysat each of these 17 children, and played with them in a manner that made them love him, made them think they were best friends,” she said. “To them, he was great. They got to go on adventures with him.”
Wearing a gray suit jacket, a plaid shirt and glasses, the tall, lanky Zakrzewski sat quietly as prosecutors laid out their case against him, listening to Oliver’s accusations against him without emotion.
On the other side of the courtroom, the jury of 12 men and seven women, including alternates, were shown photos of the boys Zakrzewski allegedly sexually assaulted.
Both Oliver and Zakrzewski’s public defender, Jennifer Ryan, warned the jury about the photos and footage they would see during the trial.
“To be honest, you’re not going to want to look at some of” the evidence, Ryan said.
Judge Kimberly Menninger banned television cameras from recording audio of the proceedings in order to protect the names of the victims shared during Thursday’s opening arguments.
A display was turned away from the public areas of the courtroom to prevent anyone besides the jury from seeing footage Zakrzewski filmed himself, allegedly of some of the sexual acts he’s accused of performing on the victims.
In her opening remarks, Ryan asked the jury to keep an open mind as they viewed evidence in the case, saying they should not make “snap judgements.” She said they should attempt to “measure the intent behind” Zakrzewski’s actions in the photos and videos they would see.
According to Oliver, police in Laguna Beach arrested Zakrzewski in May 2019 not long after a boy came forward to his parents alleging the nanny molested him months earlier. After interviewing that boy, a Laguna Beach detective assigned to the case quickly found another boy in Los Angeles who had accused Zakrzewski of similar conduct around one year earlier.
In the 2018 case, the boy from L.A. refused to talk to an interviewer after initially telling his mother about Zakrzewski’s behavior. When the Laguna Beach detective reached out to a Los Angeles Police Department detective who had investigated, both asked to talk to the boy again. In his second interview, the boy accused Zakrzewski of molesting him, Oliver said.
The deputy district attorney said the Laguna Beach boy who told his mother about Zakrzewski directly led to the “unraveling of the facade” the nanny had build up around himself and his business. After the boy came forward, police got a search warrant for Zakrzewski’s home, where they seized his personal computer.
They arrested him at Los Angeles International Airport the same day they raided his home. When they took him in to custody, Zakrzewski had his cell phone and a digital camera in his possession.
On the cell phone, computer and digital camera, Oliver said, police found “thousands of photos, and thousands of videos” Zakrzewski allegedly took of his victims.
“(Zakrzewski) very specifically, and very strategically, and obsessively recorded every act with the children,” she said.
Zakrzewski, who described himself as a “manny” on his website, worked for dozens of Southern California families. After the news of his arrest, more families came forward accusing him of sexually assaulting their children, police said.
On Thursday, the Laguna Beach mother whose son came to her with accusations against Zakrzewski testified that she hired him after searching for a nanny with experience taking care of boys with behavioral disorders.
She said her son was diagnosed with a form of autism that made it difficult for him to process his emotions. He would overturn tables in class, and would throw overwhelming tantrums in public, she said. When she found Zakrzewski’s website, she said she was impressed with his apparent patience with children like hers.
“There were pictures of him the children, pictures of him rolling around with them, boys and girls,” she said from the witness stand. “There were lots of reviews that he was a wonderful caregiver…it just looked like a lot of joy.”
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