Durham teacher faces child porn investigation
Posted December 15, 2008 2:03 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2008 7:02 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into a Durham teacher who agents say they suspect of sharing child pornography over the Internet, authorities said Monday.
Through an undercover investigation online, SBI agents identified an Internet address sharing more than 1,800 images of suspected child pornography from October through December, according to a search warrant served by the SBI and Durham police.
"The computer has been a real boon for child pornography," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "It's just unfortunate and shocking how pervasive these cases are."
Undercover work and subpoenas linked the Internet address to Willem J. Pet. The 61-year-old teaches English as a second language at Southern High School in Durham.
The SBI and Durham police searched Pet’s home last week and seized computer files and other records for forensic analysis.
The warrant described photos showing underage children in provocative poses and engaging in sexual intercourse with adults.
Pet has not been formally charged, but Cooper said he expects federal charges to be filed soon.
Durham Public School officials said that Pet has been suspended with pay, pending the investigation. He has worked for DPS since August 2005.
Neighbors were surprised to hear about the investigation into Pet, a husband and father of adult children.
"This is not who I know, and we've known him for a long time. It's a shock," neighbor Jan Pulley said.
The SBI discovered the suspected illicit online activities while training local law enforcement officers how to catch Internet predators and child pornographers, authorities said.
State laws that went into effect two weeks ago strengthened penalties for possession, dissemination and production of child pornography. The measure also increased the penalty for predators who solicit children over the Internet and then show up at a meeting place to assault a child.
"This is just one of many cases that we've run across that we investigate. And if it turns out that crimes are being committed, we will work with either state or federal authorities to prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law," Cooper said.