Professing pastor found with child pornography
A Pine County man, William Leonard Helker, 47, of Pine City, was arrested and placed in the Pine County Jail on October 26, charged with six felony counts of possession of pornography involving minors. The charging documents state that social media sites Facebook and Instagram sent CyberTip reports to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), who in turn notified the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.
Facebook and Instagram reported that a user, who is also reported to be an associate pastor/youth pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, was suspected to have possession of pornographic works involving minors. In addition, two other CyberTip reports stated that Helker was exchanging pornographic works involving minors via instant messaging on Facebook with a suspect of another investigation in the country of Finland.
The IP addresses revealed that the accesses occurred at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove and at Helker’s residence in Pine City, the charging document said.
Overall, thousands of images were found under a search warrant for Helker’s Pine City home computer and phone, according to the official complaint, and the reports state the victims in the images range from under 5 years old to 10 years old.
Helker admitted that he possessed pornographic work involving minors and that he believed he had thousands of images and videos of children under the age of 18, charging documents said. He also admitted sending images via social networking sites. Forensic examiners on site also stated that some images appear to have been taken by Helker himself.
The BCA contacted Homeland Security and learned that the male in Finland was arrested on October 24 in Helsinki. Two minor victims were identified as victims of criminal sexual conduct and matched the images sent to Helker, the complaint said.
On October 26, BCA agents obtained search warrants for Helker’s residence and vehicles in Pine County. Helker was located at the residence upon execution of the search warrant. Helker agreed to speak with the BCA. Additionally, a forensic preview of some evidence seized was conducted on the scene during the search warrant execution. The BCA learned that numerous images were observed in the evidence that contained pornographic works involving minors per the definitions set forth by Minnesota State Statute, the complaint said.
Because of the ongoing investigation and uncertainty of any contact with minors, the decision to have Helker booked at the Pine County Jail was made.
According to the charging document, Helker admitted to taking innocent images of children that attend or are members of All Saints Lutheran Church at different events. He would then take some of those images and Photoshop them to create a pornographic work for his sexual gratification. An Acer laptop was located and seized from Helker’s vehicle at the search scene in Pine County. Charging documents said it appeared there was 120 GB of data within the folder with the majority of the images and videos appearing to be pornographic works involving minors per the definitions set forth by Minnesota State Statute.
Helker faces six felony counts of possession of pornographic work involving minors. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five to seven years with fines up to $10,000. Helker is currently out on bail awaiting his first court appearance.