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Tag Archive | "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children"

Elementary school educator gets 60 years for child exploitation

James Verne Russell

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN—James Verne Russell, 50, a former Michigan teacher and principal, was sentenced to serve 720 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for sexual exploitation of two minors. U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff also imposed lifetime-supervised release should it be necessary. Russell was also sentenced on October 8, 2020 by Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Annette R. Smedley to 20 to 95 years in the related sexual assault case.

In sentencing Russell to serve 60 years in prison, Judge Neff stated the offense “is about as serious as it gets” because of the extended length of time and “circumstances in which you took advantage of children.” Judge Neff commented that in her thirty-two years as a judge “you think you’ve seen it all” and then “something like this happens.” “You come face-to-face with a human being whose behavior you just can’t understand.” “How you can take a little boy from an awful situation” and “take what little he has away from him.” “There are very few cases that will stick out to me after all these years, but yours will. I promise you.”

Russell was in education for 22 years. He was an elementary school teacher for 16 years and an elementary school principal for six years in the Ravenna and North Muskegon School Districts. In June 2018, a teacher filed a complaint about Russell’s unusual interest in two students.

Russell was suspended by the school district and later resigned. He then moved to Las Vegas and joined the Clark County School District as a fourth grade teacher. Russell came to the attention of law enforcement, in March 2019, when the FBI Las Vegas Child Exploitation Task Force received a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding a recent upload of dozens of images, some depicting child pornography. When confronted by investigators from the FBI Las Vegas and Henderson Police Department, Russell confessed to possessing the pictures. Norton Shores Police and FBI Grand Rapids located and interviewed the victim in Michigan. The victim, identified as Victim 1 in the charges, confirmed that he was the child depicted and that Russell had sexually molested him for years. A search of Russell’s cell phone and computers disclosed numerous other images of child pornography, many of which Russell had produced himself. Further investigation disclosed another boy, identified as Victim 2, who was victimized in 2017, and a third individual who had been sexually abused by Russell beginning in 1996.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office brought federal charges against Russell for the production, transportation, and possession of child pornography. The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office charged Russell for the sexual assaults of Victim 1. As part of a joint resolution, Russell pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge in Muskegon County, and pleaded guilty to two counts of production of child pornography in federal court.

Russell started his career in education in 1996. That same year, he began grooming and sexually assaulting his first victim. Russell volunteered to work with children in many capacities, including as a long-term guardian, babysitter, elementary and middle school basketball coach, lifeguard, camp counselor, and youth ministries assistant at various churches. In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “Russell’s conduct is not one of opportunity or an isolated aberration. His was a deliberate and dedicated career of manipulation and sexual abuse.”

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge stated, “Russell’s conduct is an abomination. He worked and volunteered his way into the lives of our children, not as a service to our community, but as a means to identify, target, and sexually exploit vulnerable children.

Those who are in a position of trust and sexually abuse children will be held accountable. There is no parole in the federal system. Russell will spend the rest of his life in prison and will never have the chance to molest another child.”

“The FBI is committed to working alongside our law enforcement partners to protect children from being exploited by people like Mr. Russell,” said David G. Nanz, Acting Special Agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. “He used positions of trust to gain access to vulnerable children, abuse them and record the abuse for his own perverse pleasure. His actions were reprehensible and represent the worst betrayal of innocence and trust imaginable.”

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force (ICAC), federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. The partners in Project Safe Childhood work to educate local communities about the dangers of online child exploitation, and to teach children how to protect themselves. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit the following web site: www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement officials.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Mekaru and Austin Hakes, in cooperation with the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office, and investigated by Henderson (Nevada) Police Department, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Norton Shores Police Department, FBI in Las Vegas, and WEBCHEX – “West Michigan Based Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force,” a partnership of FBI, Michigan State Police, and local agencies dedicated to investigating offenses against children.

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Cold case solved

Andrew Jackson Greer

DNA confirms that “John Doe” buried in Georgia in 1979 is missing 15-year-old from Addison, Mich.

On Feb. 12, 1979, 15-year-old Andrew Jackson Greer left Addison High School and failed to return home. Greer’s whereabouts have been unknown for the past 39-plus years. The case remained cold after early investigations by the Michigan State Police in 1979 and the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department in 2000. The cold case was re-opened in 2014, and with developments in technology and resources, the mystery of Andrew’s whereabouts has finally been solved.

A forensic analyst from the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas confirmed on Tuesday, August 14, that DNA from a “John Doe,” who was buried in a pauper’s grave in Macon, Ga. in 1979, matches Greer’s DNA.

In December 2017, a retired Bibb County Sheriff’s Department deputy made the connection between the “John Doe” and Greer. The retired deputy notified MSP detectives, who then traveled to Macon, Ga. in April 2018 to exhume the body of “John Doe.” With the assistance of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, Macon District Attorney’s Office and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, detectives were able to successfully recover the body to send for additional testing.

A DNA sample was taken from “John Doe” at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and sent to the Center for Human Identification for comparison. The results concluded that it was 1.9 trillion times more likely that the DNA from “John Doe” was that of Greer than not. Together, the DNA results and police reports conclude they are one in the same.

All indications are that Greer ran away from home on Feb. 12, 1979, and was killed two days later, on Feb. 14, 1979, when he was struck by a semi-truck while hitchhiking down I-75 near Macon, Ga. Greer’s identity has been a mystery to Georgia authorities until now, and the Michigan State Police had no information on his whereabouts until the connection was made in December 2017.

Arrangements are currently being made to bring Greer’s body back to Michigan.

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Greenville man arrested for child sexually abusive activity

Craig Alan Albright

Craig Alan Albright

Investigation involves the exploitation of minor children 

The Michigan State Police (MSP) Computer Crimes Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of 55-year-old Craig Alan Albright, of Greenville.

Albright was investigated after the MSP ICAC received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). On Dec. 8, 2016, a search warrant was executed at Albright’s home. Evidence was recovered that connected Albright with child sexually abusive activity and material at his home.

An arrest warrant was obtained and Albright turned himself into the Montcalm County Jail on Jan. 9, 2017.

Albright has been arraigned on the charges issued by the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office. They include Child Sexually Abusive Activity, Child Sexually Abusive Material (Possession) and Using a Computer to Commit a Crime.

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Sparta man arrested on CSC charges


Investigation involves child sexually abusive activity 

Tyler Ryan Lowis

Tyler Ryan Lowis

A 22-year-old Sparta man is in jail after police arrested him on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct and child sexually abusive material.

According to the Michigan State Police, their Computer Crimes Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) involving child exploitation.

ICAC then conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of a Tyler Ryan Lowis, 22, of Sparta. On November 14, 2016, a search warrant was executed at Lowis’ residence. Evidence was recovered that connected Lowis to child sexually abusive material and criminal sexual conduct.

Lowis was lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility on November 14 and arraigned on November 15, 2016. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office issued the charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree (3 Counts), Child Sexually Abusive Material, Manufacturing (3 Counts), and Using a Computer to Commit a Crime (3 Counts).

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Norma G. Engelman




Mrs. Norma G. Engelman, formerly Norma G. Bunker, of Sand Lake, Michigan, age 81, passed away in the comfort of her home on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. She was born to the late Norman and Gladys (Ott) Wylie in Kent City, Michigan on Tuesday, October 24, 1933. She was a life-long resident of West Michigan. Norma enjoyed doing many things in life. She loved to relax with the feel of a good book in her hands. She would also do crossword puzzles with an ink pen, because she was that good. Norma was a loving and devoted wife, wonderful and caring mother, and the best grandmother anyone could ask for. She always cherished every moment spent with her family. Her love for them was infinite. She will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by family, friends, and all who knew her. Norma is survived by her beloved husband of fifteen years, Jerry LeMar Engelman; loving children Douglas Bunker, Kim VerHage, Kathy Hall, Keitha (Thomas) Sanders, Kari Tesch, Leslie (Walt) Steil, Sarah (Marty) Brown, Michael Engelman, Dan Engelman, Katherine Engelman, and Cameron Engleman; twenty-two grandchildren; thirty-four great-grandchildren; brothers Robert (Sabrea) Wylie and Dale Wylie; brothers-in-law Larry Engelman and Kip Babcock; sister-in-law Linda (Wilber) Moore; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; daughter Mary Jo Hall, son-in-law Rick VerHage; grandson Adam Howard; granddaughter-in-law Kim Sanders; great-granddaughter Shannon VerHage, and mother-in-law Velma Babcock. A time of visitation was held on Sunday, January 25, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N. Monroe Street NE, Rockford, Michigan. The funeral service for Norma was held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home, with Ross Merlington officiating.  Interment will be at Rockford Cemetery, Rockford, Michigan. Those wishing to offer expressions of sympathy are encouraged to make a memorial contribution to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Memory of Shannon Dale VerHage, Attn: Development, Charles B. Wang International Children’s Building, 699 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3175; or online at  https://secure.missingkids.com/donate

Pederson Funeral Home www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

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