Cassville teacher faces child exploitation charge

Friday, May 8, 2020

McCullough being held for U.S. Marshals, has no bond

A Cassville teacher was arrested Thursday and charged federally with sexual exploitation of a child.

Brandon McCullough, 31, a Cassville High School business teacher, is being held for U.S. Marshals in the Greene County jail with no bond. He is accused of having sexually explicit conversations with minors on the messenger app Kik, wherein images and videos were exchanged with minors in other states.

McCullough

Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said the district is aware of the allegations.

“The District is cooperating with law enforcement agencies as they investigate the allegations,” he said. “At this time, we do not believe that any of our students were involved in the allegations/charges. Per the district policy, the employee has been placed on administrative leave and all access to school facilities has been limited.

“If the allegations are substantiated the Cassville R-IV School District will take immediate steps to comply with Board Policy and Missouri State Law regarding such charges. Cassville R-IV School District takes student safety as a top priority and regrets that one of our employees has been accused of these allegations/charges. The District requires and provides annual training to all employees regarding student safety and student/adult interactions.”

According to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, filed by Jeremy Bluto, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigation began based on information from Kik that said a person using the username “brianmagee8809” and an undisclosed user were involved in a chat in which suspected images of child pornography or erotica were uploaded. Kik provided a portion of the chat log, dated May 27, 2019, which allegedly showed the user uploading two images of a child he reported as 12 years old. The images allegedly showed the exposed breast of a female. No other parts of the body, including the face, were included in the images.

After the undisclosed user sent the images, user “brianmagee8809” responded, “I’m posting your pics.” At that time, it was undetermined if the female in the images was a minor.

On Feb. 14, 2020, Bluto spoke with Det. Sgt. Michael Neilan, with the Florham Park Borough, N.J., Police Department, who said he was investigating a case where the suspect may reside in the southwest Missouri area. Neilan said the suspect used the name “brianmagee8809” and allegedly engaged in a series of conversations on Kik with a 14-year-old girl, identified as Jane Doe, who resided in New Jersey. IP address tracking showed “brianmagee8809” was messaging from a Branson residence.

On May 28, two more detectives in New Jersey made contact with Jane Doe’s mother, who reported the minor had been using Kik to have sexually explicit conversations and had sent sexually explicit images to “brianmagee8809,” who allegedly threatened to send the images and videos to Jane Doe’s family and friends.

Jane Doe’s cell phone was seized and analyzed, showing the first conversation between Doe and “brianmagee8809” on May 25, 2019. The user “brianmagee8809” compliments Jane Doe and asks her age. She replied 14, and the use “brianmagee8809” said he was a 15-year-old male. The user “brianmagee8809” continued asking questions, such as where she lives, her sexual history and images.

The user “brianmagee8809” asked for images of Jane Doe, who replied she did not send nude images to strangers. The user “brianmagee8809” then send a photo with his genitalia exposed and Jane Doe asked if she could send an image later on “snap or smith,” and “brianmagee8809” responded his Snapchat username is “Tyler_smith1785.”

The user “brianmagee8809” then sent Jane Doe a video of herself, which she had sent to another Kik user, and threatened to post the video if Jane Doe did not send him images and videos. Jane Doe then sent “brianmagee8809” videos of herself engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The user “brianmagee8809” then became aggressive and demanded more images and videos and demanding more explicit conduct.

Jane Doe repeatedly pleads with “brianmagee8809” to stop, asks to be left alone, says she doesn’t want to do what he was requesting and calls him an awful person. The user “brianmagee8809” responded he would post everything, and Jane Doe begged him to reconsider, and he said they would talk later.

The next day, “brianmagee8809” continued to message Jane Doe and demand more images. Jane Doe then said she considered committing suicide because she felt trapped and did not know what else to do. The user “brianmagee8809” allegedly responded “That’s ur choice,” and Jane Doe said she took half a bottle of her mother’s pills.

Also on Jane Doe’s phone was a conversation with another person on Kik with the username “t. Hollins Tyler Hollins,” who identified himself as a 17-year-old male and initiated a conversation on May 25, 2019. Jane Doe tells “t. Hollins Tyler Hollins” about the conversation with “brianmagee8809” and “t. Hollins Tyler Hollins” said she should do what he says as long as he deletes everything. Jane Doe became increasingly desperate, saying it’s either she is exposed or she commits suicide and there are no other options. The user “t. Hollins Tyler Hollins” encourages her to continue meeting the demands of “brianmagee8809,” and she then accused him of being the same person.

Through the course of the investigation, it was determined the Kik user “brianmagee8809” and the Snapchat user “Tyler_smith1785” utilized the same IP address during all conversations with and involving Jane Doe, coming back to a home in Branson belonging to McCullough.

A search warrant was initiated and McCullough was interviewed, at first denying any conduct relating to the investigation. After Bluto exited the vehicle to see what devices had been seized in the residence, another officer confronted McCullough and told him Jane Doe had attempted suicide. McCullough then allegedly stated, “It’s me. I did it.” The officer asked him if the was just saying that and McCullough replied, “No. It’s me. I did it.”

Bluto was then informed a hard drive had been located, concealed under a basket under a sink in a bathroom on the basement floor. The drive allegedly contained dozens of Kik folders that contained images and videos of minor females engaging in sexually explicit conduct, which they had produced and sent.

McCullough allegedly admitted to owning the hard drive and said he destroyed the phone he was using to access Kik in an attempt to stop his behavior. McCullough said he has used many usernames on Kik and may have used “brianmagee8809,” as the numbers 8809 were significant because that is the date of his wedding anniversary.

McCullough said he began using Kik in 2014 to engage in sexual chats after he and his wife had separated. He said the chats eventually progressed to sexual chats with minors, and he could not recall how many chats occurred or how often because he was doing it so frequently.

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