Mattresses, undergarments, toys found near dumpster of Vernon ‘sex dungeon’

VERNON — FOX61 dug deeper into the double life of Simon Hessler, the Ellington man charged with a series of felonies related to child sex trafficking.

We learned Thursday that Hessler’s "sex dungeon" which is about 50 yards from a day care, is located directly up a flight of exterior stairs at his business office and through a door labeled “private.”

The items found around the back of the building are even more disturbing.

46-year-old Hessler is an accused man who was hiding in plain sight. Jillian Gilchrest is the Chair of Connecticut’s Trafficking in Persons Council.

“Often times a trafficker is a husband, a dad, and uncle. A man in the community,” she said.

On the surface, Hessler was a businessman and apparent good samaritan. He was a volunteer EMT for the Ellington Ambulance Corps and the owner of Baymont Inn & Suites in Manchester.

According to the investigation report obtained by FOX61, his sinister side unraveled Tuesday after a nine month investigation.

“This one is a bit more extreme than what we are typically seeing,” said Gilchrest.

The disturbingly detailed investigation report, alleges Hessler used his camper parked at his hotel in Manchester as a drop off point for child sex victims, who were blindfolded, bound and gagged before allegedly being taken to his sex dungeon at his business office in Vernon.

FOX61 spoke to his business office neighbor who didn’t not want to be identified.

“Maybe that’s why he got this place because it’s right on the main road and it’s really inconspicuous,” he said. We knocked on the door of a lawyer he rents space at his business office but didn’t get an answer.

“We were blown away. It’s unbelievable. And it happened right next to us,” said the anonymous neighbor.

The dungeon had blacked out windows, restraints, cages, whips chains and more. It was all raided.

“The guy just seemed kind of odd. He was really quiet, reserved. He always seemed like he was hiding something.”

Around the back of the office, FOX61 discovered children’s toys, bags of undergarments and mattresses by the dumpster. His Ellington ambulance vehicle was still parked there.

“He asked me if I wanted to see the offices because he had redone the house. I had saw it when the previous owner was working on it. I just went in, saw the offices and said 'oh you did a good job',” said the neighbor.

Hotel management for the Baymont Inn & Suites declined to go on camera for fear of losing their jobs, but said Hessler was an absentee owner who wouldn’t answer their calls and disappeared for months at a time.

“He couldn’t have been doing what he was doing if there wasn’t a demand to buy sex from a child,” said Gilchrest.

Hessler was caught after a series of online conversations with undercover agents.

“Grooming takes place. The trafficker maybe will meet them in a boyfriend role and maybe start buying them things.”

Hessler allegedly admitted to “training slaves for more than 20 years,” and was arrested without incident at his camper after an undercover officer posed as a 12 year old girl in DCF/foster care.

Hessler lived in Ellington with his wife and 16-year-old step child. Ellington First Selectman Lori Speilman said he is no longer a part of the ambulance organization and according to the investigation report, had a history of incidents.

Hotel management said their corporate leadership met Thursday to decide how to continue business operations.

Hessler is being held on a $1 million bond.