Man arrested on suspicion of felony child molestation

He also faces federal child pornography charges

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

Updated: June 16, 2011, 7:05 PM

 

Detectives who track child pornographers, pimps and local sex offenders — after a two-year investigation of a tip from police in Germany — have arrested an area man on suspicion of first-degree child molestation.

Joseph T. Schesso, 34, turned himself in at the Clark County Jail on Thursday, said Vancouver police Sgt. John Chapman, supervisor of a team that includes the interagency Digital Evidence Cybercrime Unit.

On Thursday evening, Schesso was being held without bail on that allegation. He is to appear in court Friday morning, a jail employee said.

Schesso also faces several federal charges after a grand jury indicted him last month for allegedly producing, distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography, according to The Columbian’s files.

In June 2010, federal agents executed a search warrant at Schesso’s Fruit Valley home and reportedly found more than 3,100 images and 500 movie files of child pornography on his computer, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

The images were of one child, who was later identified as someone who had visited Schesso’s home. Schesso also is said to have lived in Portland at times.

If convicted of the child-pornography charges, Schesso could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The new charge of first-degree child molestation refers to a specific person who was victimized, Chapman said. He declined to reveal whether the alleged victim was a boy or girl, or the person’s age.

That offense is a Class A felony, the most serious level, and the sentencing range depends on any previous convictions. The minimum range is 51 to 68 months.

The Digital Evidence Cybercrime Unit, which made Thursday’s arrest, is staffed by senior investigator Maggi Holbrook, Clark County Sheriff’s Detective Craig McCollom and Eric Thomas, a civilian investigator with the Vancouver Police Department.

The unit also works with Vancouver police Detective Jeremy Free, who investigates prostitution of underage girls, and Vancouver police Detective Pat Kennedy with the department’s Sex Offender Tracking Unit.

Even with that staff, there’s no shortage of child pornography suspects out there on the Internet, Chapman said.

“We’re literally busier than we can be,” Chapman said. “Yeah. It’s very sad.”

Nearly two years ago, in an instance of international cooperation, German Federal Police came across evidence of pornography dealing over the Internet and gave a tip to officials in Clark County.

Several officials with the Sex Offender Registration Unit of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office also keep track of local sex offenders, as do officers with the state Department of Corrections in many cases.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.<I>