BAYTOWN — As her three young children played in the front yard Wednesday, Nicole Spell gazed in disbelief at the unkempt yard and empty driveway leading to her neighbor’s house at 1900 Richardson.

Spell rarely spoke with James Michael Broomas and saw him only occasionally as he was leaving or coming home from work, she said. It wasn’t until news crews showed up at normally quiet Richardson Lane Tuesday night that Spell learned of Broomas’ double life in Houston where the 50-year-old accountant allegedly victimized young men by offering money and drugs for violent sex.

“This hits close to home — literally,” Spell said. “It’s scary to think that someone like that lives next door to you.”

Described by his Baytown neighbors as a private man, Broomas confessed to Houston police Tuesday that he is known throughout Houston’s Montrose area as “Spanky.” For almost 20 years Broomas used a Montrose apartment, known to the area’s youth as the “Freak Shack,” solely to prey on homeless young men, said Houston police investigator Matt Dexter.

After arresting Broomas at his Richmond Avenue accounting office Tuesday, police entered his one-bedroom apartment around the corner and found more than 700 videos, most involving homosexual bondage. Investigators also found pliers, paddles, ropes — one tied like a hangman’s noose — strings, scarves, condoms, bondage magazines and boys’, women’s and men’s undergarments.

Dexter said police have all but categorized Broomas as a sexual sadist. His violence escalated over the years, Dexter said.

“If he wouldn’t have been apprehended, I’m convinced that eventually he would have killed one of these kids,” he said.

Broomas’ mother and father are dead and his brother lives in Louisiana, so he lived in the Baytown house alone, Bell said. He basically traveled to and from work and did not socialize with anyone in the neighborhood, she said.

Broomas was in jail Wednesday on a $10,000 bond for one count of indecency with a child by contact. The accusation is based on a 15-year-old’s alleged sexual encounter with Broomas in 1999.

Conversations with more than 50 Montrose young adults coupled with Broomas’ 20-year history led Dexter to believe the man known as Spanky has victimized other children, most of whom probably are adults now, he said. But police are having trouble finding young men who will step forward.

“They all know that everybody goes to Spanky, but nobody talks about it,” Dexter said. “It’s one of their pipelines to the bottom line, which is the dollar.”

Houston police first heard of Spanky a month ago when someone sent an anonymous letter to their department, Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Chronicle and the Harris County district attorney’s office. The writer said he wanted to help the youth of Montrose and drew attention to a man who inflicted pain and injury on boys.

Everything in the letter was true, Dexter said.

“To prey on the homeless, that’s sickening,” Spell said. “They don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to take care of them. They’re defenseless.”