The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

June 21, 2012

Duenweg pastor sent to prison for child-porn offense

His self-confessed obsession with child pornography has landed a former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Duenweg in federal prison for three years and 10 months.

Michael A. Crippen, 53, on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield was assessed the term without parole on a conviction for possession of images of child pornography on his laptop computer.

Crippen admitted when he was arrested in 2010 that he had been viewing adult and child pornography on the Internet for years, and said he had been praying for God to intervene with his obsession.

Crippen pleaded guilty in July of last year to possessing child pornography in a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri. He had been indicted on a second count of receiving illicit material, but it was dismissed with the plea agreement.

U.S. District Judge Greg Kays ordered that Crippen remain on supervised release for 20 years after completion of his sentence.

Crippen came to the attention of federal and local authorities as the consequence of an investigation by Dutch National Police into a website in the Netherlands that contained child pornography. The international police organization Europol provided information to federal agents in the U.S. concerning downloading of images from the website, and certain downloads were traced to the defendant’s computer address.

An agent with the Department of Homeland Security and Detective Chip Root, an investigator with the Joplin Police Department assigned to the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, contacted the pastor at his home in Duenweg on Oct. 13, 2010.

A probable-cause affidavit states that Crippen at first denied any knowledge of child pornography being downloaded on a computer at his address, but later acknowledged that the matter was difficult for him to admit since he was pastor. He then admitted to the obsession, and told the officers that he had relegated several pornographic images earlier that day to the recycle bin on his laptop computer and prayed to God for help with his problem, according to the affidavit.

The federal agent asked him specifically about images that had been downloaded from the website in the Netherlands on Aug. 23, 2009, and Crippen told him that he could not recall them in particular but acknowledged they were “typical of what he looks at on the Internet.” He told the agent that “he normally looks at porn, then feels ashamed and deletes the images.”

The Rev. Bob McKinzie, a member of Crippen’s church in Duenweg, said the arrest “caught all of us by surprise.” Crippen and his family continued to live in the church’s parsonage for a few weeks after his arrest, but his ministry was brought to an end with the revelation, McKinzie said.

“It hurt our congregation,” McKinzie said. “Our membership is way down. There’s some people who forgive him, and some don’t.”

McKinzie temporarily served as interim pastor until the Rev. Bob Easton stepped in for the past year and a half. The church is still searching for a full-time pastor, McKinzie said.

He said he has not seen Crippen or talked to him since the family moved out of the parsonage. He said the former pastor’s wife and the couple’s two children returned to the church’s services a couple of times since then.

“I think the congregation kind of feels sorry for her and the family,” McKinzie said.



300 images

FORENSIC EXAMINATIONS conducted by authorities on a Duenweg pastor’s computers turned up more than 300 images of child pornography on a laptop model, including images of children under 10 years of age, according to federal court records.

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