Police have rescued a school-aged child in Strathcona County and laid numerous sexual exploitation charges against the child’s father.
The 36-year-old man was allegedly talking online with a 35-year-old Strathcona County woman who was charged in early February with committing similar child sexual exploitation offences against her toddler-aged child.
New offences were uncovered during a preliminary forensic analysis of computers seized from the woman, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) Internet Child Exploitation unit revealed Thursday.
“It is the belief of our investigators and forensic technicians that the accused was sharing this abuse and glamorizing his actions in an online conversation with the accused female from Strathcona County,” RCMP Sgt. Kerry Shima, an ICE unit investigator, said Thursday.
“The messages that have been discovered lead us to believe they bonded over their shared abuse of their own children for sexual purpose,” Shima told a news conference.
The woman, who was already facing nine criminal charges, was charged with 15 more offences on Feb. 28, ALERT said Thursday. The new charges include sexual assault, making and distributing child pornography, and arrangement to commit sexual offences against a child.
“She’s being charged with counselling to commit multiple sexual offences in relation to the messages and images that were exchanged,” Shima said.
He said police have also found images supporting allegations that both the toddler and the child were sexually assaulted as infants.
Police look for additional victims
To protect the identities of the children, police have not named either of the two people charged.
Both children are receiving support from a variety of specialized services, including the Zebra Child Protection Centre.
ALERT said the investigation is ongoing with support from Edmonton police, the FBI and U.S. Homeland Security.
Shima said forensic technicians continue to pore over digital evidence.
“Our highest priority remains identifying the possibility of additional victims,” Shima said.
Emmy Stuebing, CEO of the Zebra Centre, praised investigators for their work.
While this case was detected by police, Stuebing said it is a reminder of the important role caregivers play in identifying and reporting child abuse.
“Even if it’s just a suspicion, it’s so important to have to report,” she said.
“If abuse isn’t reported, it can continue on and on for years, causing deeper and deeper harm. And so the sooner that we can identify it and provide supports to both the child and the safe caregivers, the better off everyone will be.”
Both accused have been released from custody on multiple conditions, Shima said.
The man is scheduled to appear in court on March 21. The woman’s next court appearance is for March 22.