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Adrian school fires substitute teacher after child porn charges

Matthew Thomas faces 3 child pornography charges

A school in Adrian has fired a substitute teacher who is facing child porn charges.

Matthew David Thomas subbed at Lenawee Christian School.

Read a statement from the school below.

Thomas is known to be active in the community is accused of uploading 93 child porn images, including many of toddlers, teenage girls in sports clothing and disturbing edited photos of young girls, FBI officials said.

Thomas, 44, is accused of uploading 93 images of child pornography to an online picture  and video hosting service called SmugMug-Flickr, police said.

Officials with the hosting service alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an account under the username "Martee T"  had uploaded the images at 2:52 p.m. Aug. 17.

The hosting service reported the images Aug. 19 and traced them to a Yahoo! email address that belongs to Thomas, court records show.

Statement from Lenawee Christian School CEO Jim Colman:

"My colleagues and I are devastated that it’s necessary to be emailing you tonight about the shocking and disgusting allegations made against a former substitute teacher at our school. As you must know, Matthew Thomas was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday on child pornography charges.

"You deserve a full explanation as to the events surrounding these horrible crimes.

"Last week, FBI agents contacted school administrators and asked for our help in a child pornography investigation. They shared very few details with us but did tell us that Mr. Thomas was the suspect and that some of the victims may have been our students.

"Our obvious reaction upon learning this information was that we wanted to immediately fire Mr. Thomas, to ensure that he had no contact with our students and to notify parents.

"However, the FBI agents told us that they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him and warned us that doing anything to tip him off might allow him to destroy evidence and escape prosecution.

"Very reluctantly, we agreed to the FBI’s request to stay silent for a few days as the agents continued their investigation.

"We did, however, take immediate steps to monitor Mr. Thomas’ classroom at all times utilizing multiple staff members so that he was never alone with students.

"The FBI never told us when they were going to arrest Mr. Thomas. We learned of his arrest on Wednesday night. We then fired Mr. Thomas immediately and sent a short statement to parents.

"Words cannot express the depth of anger and betrayal all of us here feel. We love and care for your children as if they were our own and it breaks our hearts that someone we all trusted appears to have betrayed us and done something so horrible. I’m truly sorry that this has happened.

"Our foremost responsibility and goal is to keep your children safe. Every day, we do so many things to safeguard students. Since we learned of this incident, we’re reviewing our operations and will seek any new safeguards available moving forward.

"We’ve offered free counseling by trained professionals to every student and parent who requests it. If you or your child would like to speak with a professional, please get in contact with the school so we can help.

"This process has been the most challenging time of my career as an educator. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is for you and your children.

"We’ll continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement to ensure that justice is done and that any crimes committed against our students, or others in our community, are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

"More importantly, we will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our students.

"Thank you for reading this. God bless you and your family."

Child porn images

WARNING: The image descriptions are graphic.

Police said 34 of the images showed two girls about 5 and 8 years old. A man's hand can be seen pushing aside the skirt of one of the girls in 18 of the images, according to authorities.

Eighteen of the photos were taken up the dress of a 3- to 5-year-old girl at what appears to be a gymnasium, according to court records. In 15 of the images, the focus appears to be on the girl's private parts, officials said.

Five of the images show two naked girls between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, court records show.

FBI officials said 30 of the photos show clothed teenage girls, 12 to 14 years old, wearing team jerseys. Many of the photos were focused on the girls' private areas, according to authorities.

Two photos showed a clothed teenage girl with the private parts from one of the other images edited onto her, court records show. This girl was also seen in the photos of the players in jerseys, officials said.

Three of the photos showed a girl, about 8 years old, standing in front of a house with clothes on, police said. The private area from one of the other images was edited onto her, according to court records.

Photos linked to Thomas

Yahoo! records for the email address linked to the "Martee T" account show the account has been logged into four times -- once to create the account, twice in the minutes after initial registration and once on Aug. 18, FBI officials said.

On Aug. 20, authorities served a subpoena to Comcast for information about the logins to the email address. They traced the IP address to a home on Sapphire Drive in Adrian, according to court records.

A subpoena served to Spring Corporation traced the SmugMug-Flickr account to the same home on Sapphire Drive, records show.

Officials said the Yahoo! email account was created July 30 using a phone number registered to Thomas. The email account was used to create the SmugMug-Flicker account "Martee T" on the same day, authorities said.

Thomas arrested

FBI agents said they identified several of the girls in the images.

The parents of two girls and a school official identified the victims in the images and said they are members of Thomas' community, court records show.

A search warrant was served Wednesday at Thomas' home, and agents compared the background of the images of two victims to his living room.

Thomas' wife told police the images would have been taken around Thanksgiving 2018 based on the paint color in the living room, records show.

School officials identified several of the teenage girls from the sports team photographs, FBI agents said.

During the search, Thomas' wife identified his phone, which rang when FBI officials called the number linked to the image upload.

A message sent to the email address used for the SmugMug-Flickr account also displayed on the phone screen, officials said.

Thomas was taken into custody and charged with production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.


About the Authors:

Derick Hutchinson

Derick Hutchinson is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications and a focus in journalism. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.

Amber Ainsworth

Amber is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a Journalism and Screen Studies degree. She is a writer and photographer who covers music and local beer, when she's not covering news. Amber is also a member of the Michigan National Guard.