Fitzgerald, who is also a director of youth services at a methodist church in Bartow, Florida, was arrested by police on Friday evening. After executing a search warrant cops found 408 counts of possessing child pornography. The images showed both male and female children being sexually battered by adults and/or engaging in sexual acts with other children, with some of the victims appearing to be as young as 10-12 months old. Fitzgerald, 46, being held in jail with a bond of more than $2 million.
“An arrest like this shakes the entire community. A man entrusted with the education and guidance of so many children, working closely with them, and betraying that trust in such a heinous way. Sadly, people who possess child pornography are out there, all over the world. But making these kinds of arrests are not rare in Polk County, due to the diligent work of the PCSO Computer Crimes Unit,” said Polk County sheriff Grady Judd.
The investigation was launched in February after Polk County sheriff’s office received a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Kik messenger had been used to upload a video depicting child abuse, Crime Online reports.
“He is a bad turkey who is going to spend Thanksgiving in a county jail,” said sheriff Grady Judd told reporters today. “We saw horrific acts.
“Everything from children as young as 10-months-old and that were engaged in some form of illicit, horrible, sexual conduct as a baby up to the early teens,” sheriff Judd said.
During the cell phone search, detectives said they found a “Calculator Vault” app, which is an application that looks like a calculator but actually hides saved images. Fitzgerald said he used the app to store images of an extramarital affair and couldn’t recall the password, but the forensic examination of the phone found the child porn images.
The sheriff’s office said that they’ve uncovered no evidence so far that any of the images and videos were produced locally or that Fitzgerald carried out any illegal acts on children.
“We will bring this man to justice,” Judd said. “Our goal is that he sits in prison for a very long time. Our prayer is that there are no child victims. Our other prayer is that we can identify these children who have already been victimized.”
The sheriff’s office said investigators are still conducting searches of Fitzgerald’s electronic devices and that more charges are possible.