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Former Texas Pastor Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison for Secretly Filming Children

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The former pastor of a Texas church has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for filming 11- to 14-year-old children with hidden cameras to produce child pornography, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

David Alan Pettigrew, 49, former pastor of Denison Church of the Nazarene in Denison, Texas, pleaded guilty on April 7 to sexual exploitation of children, conspiracy, and attempt.

He was arrested in August 2020 after notifications from electronic service providers relayed via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted authorities that a user had uploaded files of suspected child pornography, triggering an investigation.

Law enforcement officials traced the leads to Pettigrew’s home in Denison and the church, where teams from Homeland Security Investigations and the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office discovered that Pettigrew and co-defendant Chad Michael Rider had set up hidden cameras to film children.

As part of his plea, Pettigrew admitted to conspiring with Rider to video record minors, including while the minors were nude, using hidden cameras disguised as hooks, clocks, a picture frame, a smoke detector, an AC wall adapter, charging blocks, and a pen.

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Pettigrew also admitted that he had secretly filmed a child in his home, and that he and Rider had filmed children undressing, bathing, and toweling off at the church. The children were all approximately 11 to 14 years old at the time they were unknowingly recorded, investigators said.

On August 19, 2020, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Pettigrew with transportation of child pornography and both Pettigrew and Rider with conspiring to and attempting to sexually exploit children by producing child pornography.

The case against Rider is ongoing and remains pending.

“David Pettigrew is a predator who used his position to exploit children for his own gratification,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei, who prosecuted the case. “Parents and kids in Grayson County trusted Pettigrew as an educator, pastor, and friend, all the while unaware of his criminal intent. Working with children is nothing short of a privilege, and EDTX is committed to ensuring that those who assume responsibility for children do not violate that position of trust.”

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.