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No clear evidence, suspects in potential child porn case in Monte

Detectives with the Washington State Patrol concluded their investigation on potential child pornography on City of Montesano-owned computers and no charges will be pressed against anyone due to a lack of evidence and no clear suspects.

Although a small “postage stamp-sized” picture of a partially naked, very young-looking female was found on one of the computers, there was not enough evidence to press any charges. Detectives were unable to enlarge the picture enough to determine the identity of the girl or determine her exact age.

“I examined all of the computers, hard drives, and iPads submitted in this case,” a detective with the State Patrol wrote in an email to the city administrator on Monday. “I did not find any evidence of child pornography on any of the media. All of the items submitted are ready to be picked up and returned to Montesano.”

“Today, we received the good news from the Washington State Patrol that the computers did not have any evidence of child pornography,” Mayor Ken Estes said in a written statement, adding that the investigation was spurred after a resident complained about the activities. “The city is relieved that we can move forward without the expense of a criminal investigation. The city has adopted strict computer policies and employees have signed off that they understand the expectations of the city of Montesano and citizen stakeholders.”

The city of Montesano contacted the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children last August after the city’s independent computer consultant discovered the picture on one of the city’s public works computers. The picture was discovered amid an investigation into whether Public Works employees were looking at pornography or other inappropriate materials. Because of a backlog of cases, it took time for detectives to look at the computers and figure out what could be on them.

The city does not know who downloaded the picture or where precisely it came from. Mayor Estes said that it might have been on the computer four or five years ago and was never deleted.

Besides the small picture, no other pictures of potential young girls were found. Estes notes that the State Patrol detectives did confirm the findings made by the city’s independent investigator of a lot of other “soft porn” photos of what appeared to be adults, along with a lot of general time wasting.

The independent investigation uncovered more than 96,000 images on public works computers, not all pornographic, and more than 8,000 hours of personal use on city computers and iPads.

Two employees, including one that admitted to watching pornography on city time, received a one-day suspension without pay. The third employee, who admitted to visiting pornography websites and escort websites while on the job, received a five-day suspension without pay.