UPDATE: On Friday the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Official formally charged 46-year-old Elwood Anthon Anderson with four counts of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. You can find the full press release from Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist after our initial post below.
According to Washington State Patrol Lieutenant Ron Mead, a Gig Harbor man accused of being the state’s most prolific downloader of child pornography was arrested this morning. The arrest was the culmination of an investigation that started back in May after the State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force got a tip from the Seattle Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. According to Stacia Glenn of The News Tribune in Tacoma, a search warrant served July 13 uncovered over 9,000 images of child porn on several computers and digital media devices that were seized by police.
However, according to Mead, it’s not the 9,000 images that make the man the most prolific downloader of child porn in Washington. Mead explains to Seattle Weekly that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia tracks all known images of child porn on the web - each with an individual “fingerprint” - and through this technology investigators have concluded that the man arrested this morning had downloaded more pornographic images depicting children than anyone else in the state.
“Based on the [image’s fingerprint] we have tools that track the exchange of them,” says Mead. “Basically, it keeps track of how many of these images are coming and going from specific IP addresses.”
According to Mead, the State Patrol - via its Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force - is one of the few agencies in the state capable of handling such an investigation. “These types of investigations require expertise that not a lot of agencies have,” he says, calling child porn a “huge problem” in our state.
While Mead admits that through online fingerprinting and the work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children law enforcement authorities have access to information on any number of individual child porn downloads, the State Patrol only has the resources to “target the most prolific offenders.”
And, according to Mead, the man arrested this morning in Gig Harbor certainly qualifies. He says that forensic testing on the man’s various computers and devices continues, and that the 9,000 images already found likely represents only a “snapshot” of the man’s activities.
“In his line of work he deals with computers extensively,” says Mead of the Gig Harbor man, noting that authorities believe the suspect went to “extensive” lengths to cover up his crimes.
The man was booked into Pierce County Jail after his arrest. According to the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office charges are expected as early as tomorrow. Seattle Weekly is not naming the man as he has yet to be charged.
UPDATE: Here’s the press release from the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office announcing charges against Elwood Anthon Anderson:
TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Elwood Anthon Anderson, 46, with four counts of Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, for thousands of images of child pornography he viewed on his computer.
“Viewing child pornography re-victimizes the victims,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
On December 21, 2012, Seattle Police began an investigation into the excessive use of a known child pornography file sharing site by one specific IP address. During the course of the investigation, the IP address was traced to the defendant’s Gig Harbor residence.
In May 2013, the Washington State Patrol sent 570 images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for analysis. Many of the images contained previously identified victims, and all were classified as child pornography. The images depict young children in various states of undress, and some are engaged in sexual activity with adults.
On July 11, 2013, a search warrant was executed at the Anderson residence. Among the items seized were two computers and an external hard drive. Initially, detectives could not locate any child pornography on the computer, but a forensic analysis of the defendant’s external hard drive revealed thousands of images of child pornography and more than 200 videos had been accessed using a “virtual” computer, which is software that allows images to be viewed without creating a record. According to a witness, the defendant indicated that he was not worried that law enforcement would find sexually explicit images on his computer because of his high level of technical knowledge and the methods he used to view the images, including “ghost drives.”
Anderson is married and is a father of four daughters. All family members living in the home said they had no knowledge the defendant was viewing child pornography. He told a neighbor, “In a way I’m glad I got caught ... I’m glad it’s out there so I don’t have to hide it anymore.”
Anderson is scheduled to be arraigned today at 1:30pm in Courtroom 270 of the County-City Building in Tacoma. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.