Recent Petersburg school employee faces child pornography charges


Tye Petersen

Federal authorities arrested 45 year-old Tye Leif Petersen, Petersburg District School's recent Maintenance Director, on charges of Distribution of and Receipt of Child Pornography and Possession of Child Pornography Involving a Prepubescent Minor or Child Under 12 Years of Age.

The charges come after a joint investigation between the Petersburg Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to an FBI affidavit, last July an investigator searched a Yahoo! E-mail account it's labeling "Tennessee John Doe" and found "prolific child pornography trading" between that user and more than 50 other email accounts.

Investigators subsequently found evidence that between April 25, 2013 and July 7, 2013 around 58 emails were exchanged between "Tennessee John Doe" and Petersen.

"Most of the emails contained video or picture attachments depicting child pornography of very young children being sexually molested," the affidavit states.

Last Friday, authorities executed a search warrant at Petersen's residence in Petersburg where more evidence was seized.

"Among those items were ten homemade CDs located in the storage area under the home," the affidavit states.

The CDs contained images and videos of illegal images.

An agent interviewed Petersen and he admitted receiving the content and gave investigators access to three e-mail accounts.

Investigators found images dated from as early as November 2011.

Petersburg School District Superintendent Rob Thomason sent out a letter to parents on Tuesday informing them of the issue. No formal arrest had been made so Thomason made no mention of Petersen's involvement.

Petersen, who worked for PSD for more than 10 years, resigned on Tuesday.

Thomason said federal and local authorities searched all school facilities Saturday.

"There is no evidence that any local children were involved," Thomason wrote. "As a result of district content filters and constant monitoring of district network traffic we are confident no downloading of photographs or other inappropriate material took place on site, during work hours, or using district computer equipment."

Petersburg Police Chief Kelly Swihart said the evidence found in Petersen's home and personal devices is vast and will take additional time to sift through.

"The current charges are likely just the tip of the iceberg," Swihart said. "We have not discovered any illegal images of local children. If we do discover images we'll contact parents directly."

According to the FBI affidavit, investigators learned Petersen was scheduled to leave Petersburg on Tuesday on an Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau with a final destination of Seattle, Wash.

According to a United States District Court detention order, Petersen was arrested while attempting to leave Alaska "evidently in anticipation of these charges. Further, he has told the pretrial services officer he has no residence."

Petersen was arraigned yesterday in U.S. District Court in Juneau before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Longenbaugh according to a Department of Justice news release. Petersen has been detained pending trial.

Petersen faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge.

Swihart said child pornography is often traded electronically. He said there are websites based in foreign countries where images are traded and there are different underground networks where offenders can congregate and find each other.

Thomason said State Troopers conduct background checks on all their employees and that Petersen's case was a total surprise.


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