Sunday, November 2, 2008

Michael J. Morrow - Pedophile Sunday School Teacher Bust for Child Porn

A Grand Junction man who worked with children allegedly told federal agents he kept about 13,000 child porn images on his home computer, which were collected and shared for several years.

Michael J. Morrow, 63, a former teacher’s aide at Grand Mesa Middle School who had recently written sports columns for the Grand Junction Free Press, was jailed in Mesa County after his arrest by U.S. Marshals Tuesday evening at his family’s home at 559 Greenfield Circle East.

Morrow’s home was searched Monday after agents with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) learned that a computer at Morrow’s home had been linked to sexually explicit material — an arrest affidavit describes images of teen and preteen girls engaged in sex acts.

According to a search warrant affidavit, Morrow allegedly told ICE investigators he had roughly 13,000 child porn images on a computer in his bedroom, showing “toddlers to teens.” Morrow said he had been collecting and sharing such images, which he received from “Chris LNU” of the Netherlands, via the Internet “for a number of years.”

Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, said authorities are still trying to identify any potential local victims. It’s unclear if any of the images allegedly captured on Morrow’s computer are Mesa County children.

“He was active in the community, and there’s a concern there may be other child victims associated with the case,” Dorschner said.

A news release distributed by Dorschner asked people with information about Morrow’s case to call the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office at 244-3500.

School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said Morrow on Tuesday resigned his position as a teacher’s aide at Grand Mesa Middle School. Morrow had worked there three weeks, starting on Oct. 7 and leaving Oct. 28.

He worked with seventh- and eighth-grade teachers.

“We’re confident he was not left in classrooms by himself with students,” Kirtland said.

Kirtland said Morrow had access to computers at the school, but the equipment “isn’t being called into question.”

“Investigators did not ask for access to our computers,” Kirtland said.

Local ICE agents referred comment on the school computer question to the U.S. Attorney in Denver. Dorschner declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Morrow in May was approved as an adult mentor for Mesa County Partners. He had been paired with a boy. Partners Director Joe Higgins said the pairing was terminated on Monday after law enforcement approached them about the child porn allegations.

Higgins said Morrow had passed two independent criminal background checks before he was matched up with the boy. Higgins said the checks are routine.

“Nothing for us to catch in public records,” Higgins said of Morrow.

Higgins said he’d interacted with Morrow at Partners-related functions in the course of Morrow’s volunteer work.

“He seemed pretty normal to everybody,” he said.

Morrow and his wife taught Sunday school classes to 12- to 14-year-olds at a Grand Junction area church, according to a bio posted for Morrow at a Web site for Meridian Magazine, a Latter-day Saints-themed publication.

The publication was one of several nationwide Morrow had written for.

Databases searched by the Free Press on Wednesday showed no criminal past for Morrow.

Morrow was an unpaid contributor to the Free Press’ sports page and worked out of his home. Managing Editor Josh Nichols said Morrow approached the paper about six months ago with stories from past employers.

“He just wanted to write,” Nichols said.

The Free Press learned Morrow was the focus of an investigation when federal agents showed up at the newspaper on Tuesday morning.

In his most recent piece for the paper published Oct. 20, Morrow featured several of the coaches and players with the Mesa County Junior Football Association.

Morrow also followed local high school football teams and wrote columns on topics such as cheerleading, professional football and basketball as well as auto racing.

“Everything about this is horribly disturbing,” Free Press Publisher Valerie Smith said in a prepared statement on Morrow’s arrest.

“Although Michael Morrow wrote occasional articles for the Free Press, he did not work in our building nor did he use our computer equipment. Of course, we will provide authorities any information they need as they continue their investigation.”

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on Wednesday reported on its Web site that Morrow had worked there as a copy editor from May 2007 through February 2008.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Morrow’s family declined comment.

Morrow, during a first court appearance in Mesa County, asked to be represented by a federal public defender.

He’s scheduled for a hearing before a federal judge in Denver on Monday.

No comments: