An Oakdale man remained in federal custody Wednesday, charged with receiving or distributing child pornography. Investigators say they found more than 2,500 child porn images and more than 150 videos on the defendant’s smartphone.
Stanislaus County prosecutors on Monday dropped charges against defendant Timothy Brian Werlhof moments before federal agents stepped in and took him into custody, according to Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees.
Werlhof, 24, initially was charged with sexually exploiting a minor, distributing sexually obscene material of a minor and possessing images of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, all felonies.
Among the child pornography images the defendant downloaded, investigators found photos of a nude 5-year-old girl Werlhof knew, according to an affidavit filed Friday in federal court.
The defendant made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday, where he pleaded not guilty. A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday to determine whether Werlhof will remain in custody. A preliminary hearing for the defendant has been scheduled for July 28.
Until Monday, Werlhof had been in custody at the Stanislaus County jail since May 22. The child pornography investigation started May 8, when an Oakdale resident found a secure digital memory card, which is used to store files on tablets, smartphones and other computer devices.
The resident told police he found the card near a 7-Eleven convenience store in the 1200 block of West F Street in Oakdale. He told police he viewed the contents of the card to determine its owner and found the child porn images, according to the affidavit written by Special Agent Greg Wenning of the FBI.
The storage card was then handed over to 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.
Along with the child porn, the FBI agent wrote that investigators found photos of the defendant, including a selfie, which was used to identify Werlhof as a suspect.
Investigators served a search warrant about 7 a.m. May 22 at Werlhof’s home on Lezlie Court in Oakdale. The investigators seized a computer and other electronic evidence from the home.
Werlhof later was questioned by police. He told investigators the memory card belonged to him and he downloaded child pornographic images from the Internet and photographed a nude girl before uploading those photos to the Internet, according to the FBI agent.
The defendant identified the 5-year-old girl, who did not know at the time she was being photographed. He was alone with the girl in October 2013.
Werlhof told investigators the girl was running around naked and he told the girl to put on some clothes, knowing that he would be sexually aroused by children, Wenning wrote in the affidavit. The FBI agent said that Werlhof photographed the girl as she was putting on a shirt with the intent of using the image for his arousal.