Are the victims WB children? Man, 22, charged with having child porn by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 24, 2014
Police arrested a West Branch man about 10 p.m. Friday on accusations he possessed child pornography on his computer and cell phone. Iowa City Police Department charged Brady Allen Verlo, 22, of Sagert Drive, with six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and said he admitted to having about 400 photographs and videos of child porn on his cell phone and more than 1,000 images on his home computer. The ICPD complaint states that Verlo made those admissions after being read his Miranda rights.
Bond was set at $30,000; Verlo faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the Class D felonies.
Verlo worked for West Branch Day Care helping oversee kindergarten-through-fifth-grade children in a program called Kids Club, a before-and-after-school child care held in the multi-purpose room at Hoover Elementary.
West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan said Monday he has no knowledge so far that any of the pictures or videos involve local children. Iowa City is leading the investigation and will attempt to identify the children in the images, which may mean asking WBPD and others for help.
Kids Club Coordinator Larry Asari said he never saw Verlo acting suspiciously or inappropriately with any children.
“He’s been a good employee,” Asari said. “Very reliable.”
Horihan said that even though WBPD has not seen the photographs yet, “there is no evidence (Verlo) used his position (at the day care) to generate any type of pictures.”
“And we’re hoping that when we look, we will not find any,” the police chief said.
Still, the investigation is ongoing and “we want to keep that option open,” Horihan said.
Verlo was arrested at Colonial Lanes in Iowa City; Horihan said Verlo worked there as well as the day care.
An ICPD complaint also states Verlo is the only one with access to his computer and cell phone and that he exchanged the photographs and videos with others over the Internet.
The ICPD complaint states that “federal investigators and the Iowa City Police Department were involved in an investigation involving child pornography”; Horihan stated Verlo was arrested on a warrant.
If Verlo is found to have exchanged the pictures and/or video through the Internet, he may be charged with federal crimes as well.
“It’s possible federal charges might take place,” Horihan said. “(ICPD) will probably decide later if they are going to go federal.”
Verlo attended West Branch United Methodist Church and Rev. Alexis Johnson stated that the church “is praying for everyone involved in this situation and we would like to ask the community to join us in praying.”
“The church has a policy that is in place to ensure the safety of our youngest disciples during our programs here,” she wrote in a statement. “We invite the community to prayerfully respect the privacy of the family as this circumstance is reviewed by the proper authorities.”
Samantha Bassler, who works in child care in Coralville and lives in West Liberty, said she remembers Verlo from attending Kids Club with him in the 1990s and working with him at West Branch Day Care a few years ago.
“I was really shocked,” Bassler said. “It was unexpected. ... I was bawling on the phone to my mom about it.”
She said that she worked primarily at the day care, but on occasion helped at Kids Club. Because the children are kept in groups, she said it would be difficult for a worker to pull a child aside without others knowing.
“Usually there are three to four staff and a lot of kids,” she said. “Sometimes there will be a group outside and a group inside. ... There’s always someone watching.”
Horihan said that parents will be notified if pictures of their children appear on Verlo’s phone or computer, even if the pictures are not deemed pornographic.
“There might be pictures recovered that might be harmless, pictures of kids in normal day activities that are not necessarily showing abuse,” the police chief said. “But if there are any West Branch kids in any photographs, we will notify parents. … We will make parents aware of any pictures whatsoever, whether they are appropriate or not. If somebody had pictures of my kid, playing ball or cheerleading, I’d want to know. They may not warrant child porn charges, but my goal is to notify parents.”
West Branch Day Care and West Branch Community School notified parents of the arrest Saturday via e-mail.
Day Care Manager Dea Hoeme sent out two e-mails, pointing out Verlo worked at Kids Club and that they are “assisting in any way we can with the investigation.”
“We will keep parents informed as we know more,” Hoeme wrote in an e-mail sent about noon Saturday. “Brady will not be returning to our program.”
Hoeme followed up with a second e-mail about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, stating that West Branch Police suggested parents “not interrogate their children,” but instead contact the WBPD.
“If at some point children will need to be interviewed the Police Dept. will have people who are trained in working with children,” Hoeme wrote.
Hoeme on Monday declined to comment further, saying Horihan asked her not to talk to the media.
West Branch Schools’ e-mail, sent about 11 a.m. Saturday, states that they, too, are working with police in any way necessary to assist the investigation.
Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said Monday he had been contacted by nine news organizations about the matter, but that he did not have much information himself.
“We’re always concerned about the safety of kids,” the superintendent said.
The school superintendent sent out another e-mail late Monday afternoon, stating that they are continuing to work with “all authorities” but that no additional information has been given to them.
Horihan said that both the day care and school district have cooperated with the investigation.
The police chief also cautioned parents about getting into too much detail with their children, if they feel inclined to ask them questions.
“We don’t want them putting words in their mouths or to do anything leading,” he said. “We want the kids’ statements and interviews to be genuine and not implied that something happened.”
Horihan said that day care workers will likely be interviewed, and that if any children need to be interviewed, it will be done by specially trained officers who are “used to dealing with sexual abuse victims, especially children.”
Horihan suggested questions parents normally ask children: Do you feel safe at school? Are there people you like/don’t like? Has anyone done anything to you that was hurtful?
Parents should note any suspicious activity or comments from children, the police chief said.
Verlo graduated from West Branch High School in 2009.
He volunteered with the West Branch Youth Wrestling Club in 2010 and has been recognized for his achievements in the Boy Scouts. He has also appeared on the West Branch High School honor roll and by graduation earned a Silver Cord for his 103 1/2 hours of volunteerism.
Verlo played on the high school varsity basketball team and was named to the Academic All-Conference list. Early in high school, he joined the wrestling team.
In a March 2006 letter to the editor, a teacher told a story about a raffle and how Verlo was offered the chance to draw the winning name. When Verlo pulled out from the hundreds of tickets the one with his own name, he chose to draw another name and let someone else win.