May 27, 2014

Oakdale defendant arraigned in child porn case

An Oakdale man on Tuesday made his first court appearance since his arrest last week on suspicion of possessing child pornography, including photos of a 5-year-old girl.

An Oakdale man on Tuesday made his first court appearance since his arrest last week on suspicion of possessing child pornography, including photos of a 5-year-old girl.

Timothy Brian Werlhof, 24, appeared in court without an attorney for his arraignment Tuesday afternoon. The judge entered a plea of not guilty on Werlhof’s behalf.

Prosecutors charged Werlhof with sexually exploiting a minor, distributing sexually obscene material of a minor and possessing images of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, all felonies.

The defendant was booked in Stanislaus County jail on Thursday morning and was held there over the weekend. He entered the courtroom Tuesday afternoon wearing an orange-and-white jail inmate jumpsuit with shackles on his wrists and ankles.

His bail was increased from $50,000 to $100,000, and he was scheduled to return to court Monday for a pretrial hearing. The Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent him.

The child pornography investigation started May 8, when an Oakdale resident found a micro-SD storage card, which is used to store files on tablets, smartphones and other computer devices. The resident saw that the card had what appeared to be child pornography images, said Oakdale police Sgt. Joe Johnson.

Oakdale police Detective Bill Carter sent the card to Ceres police Detective Britton Moore, who is assigned to the High Tech Crimes Task Force. The card was forensically analyzed.

Johnson said investigators found more than 2,500 child porn images and more than 150 videos, along with some photos of the storage card’s owner. The forensic analysis of some of the photos revealed an address on Lezlie Court in Oakdale.

Oakadale police identified Werlhof as a suspect in the investigation by comparing the card’s photos with his inmate mug shots and photos of his tattoos from previous arrests, Johnson said.

Investigators served a search warrant about 7 a.m. Thursday at Werlhof’s home when he was not there. Johnson said they recovered a computer and other electronic evidence from the home.

As the investigators were leaving the Lezlie Court home, police received a report of a suspicious person at Sierra Baptist Church property on North Lee Avenue. The church is less than a block away from Werlhof’s home.

Officers checked the area and found Werlhof on the church property. They informed him of the circumstances surrounding the search at his home.

Werlhof told police the micro-SD card belonged to him, according to Johnson, and agreed to accompany officers to the Oakdale Police Department for questioning.

Johnson said Werlhof told investigators that he downloaded child pornographic images from the Internet and photographed a nude girl before uploading those photos to the Internet.

Investigators have identified the girl, who did not know at the time she was being photographed, according to police. The 5-year-old girl was listed as “Jane Doe” in a criminal complaint filed in court Tuesday.

Johnson said investigators are trying to identify several other minors whose photos were on the storage card in nonpornographic poses to determine whether they were also victims. The complaint indicates the alleged crimes occurred from Oct. 11, 2013, through May 3.

Police ask anyone with information about this case to call Detective Bill Carter at (209) 847-2231.

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