Federal investigators didn't tell school district that lunch lady was target of child porn probe

SPRINGFIELD, MO. - A former Springfield Public Schools employee sent to federal prison for exchanging pornography involving dogs and young children continued to work in the district for more than three years after landing on the radar of law enforcement.

The district said it was never told of the investigation — or the arrest, the indictment or the guilty pleas — until after the sentencing.

Carrie Anne Allred, of Springfield, was hired by the district in September 2011. Over a period of nearly five years, she worked in school cafeterias at Campbell, Sherwood and Watkins elementary schools and Wilson's Creek Intermediate.

A year into Allred's employment, an officer conducting an undercover sting as part of the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force determined that her home computer was used to share images of child pornography.

In January 2013, officers executed a search warrant at her home and seized a computer and two hard drives.

Allred was indicted and arrested in June 2016, shortly after her final day working at Wilson's Creek. In March of this year, she pleaded guilty to two felony charges, receiving and distributing child pornography and the sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing pornography.

In late August, two weeks into the 2017-18 school year, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri announced, via a news release, that Allred had been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.

Teresa Bledsoe, director of communications for the 25,000-student district, said that was the day school officials learned of the case. "Prior to the public announcement, we were not aware of any issues with this individual."

Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, confirmed the August news release was the first time information was made public about the case.

Asked why the district was not informed before the sentencing date, Ledford issued a written response.

"We are restricted to providing only the information disclosed in the public record. We’re not at liberty to discuss the specific details of an investigation," Ledford wrote. "As a rule, however, I assure you that in the course of any investigation, if there is evidence to indicate a child is at risk or a suspect poses an imminent threat, we take appropriate action."

Authorities were aware Allred was employed in a public school because it was noted in court documents.

As part of the case, investigators learned Allred recorded her dog performing a sexual act on a 4-year-old girl and discovered a large amount of pornography involving young children.

Allred also admitted broadcasting, via webcam, videos of herself engaged in bestiality with her dogs.

Ledford said Allred pleaded guilty without having a plea agreement in place. He said no jail mug shot was available.

He provided the News-Leader with an eight-page sentencing memo written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller, who successfully prosecuted the case. Miller sought 20-25 years in prison with lifetime supervision upon release.

In the memo, Miller described Allred's actions and the lasting impact on the 4-year-old victim as "abhorrent, to say the least."

"The defendant is not an individual who took a picture of a nude child once, but rather took a video of bestiality with a four-year-old child. The defendant is not an individual who possessed a handful of child pornography images, but someone who had a substantial amount of child pornography of prepubescent children," she wrote. "This is a defendant who was enmeshed in deviant sexual behavior."

Allred, 34, received 18 years in prison with 10 years of supervision upon release. She was taken into custody at the sentencing.

Miller wrote in the memo that the court could consider numerous factors in determining the sentence including age, medical condition, military service, family obligations and criminal history.

The memo shed light on Allred's past while weighing the seriousness of the charges. 

According to the memo, Allred said she was physically and sexually abused as a child and started smoking marijuana on a daily basis at age 15. She was reportedly diagnosed with depression and other mental illness.

She dropped out of high school during her freshman year, failed to obtain a GED and didn't have any concrete plans for the future, Miller wrote.

In arguing for more time in prison, Miller wrote that the years would give Allred ample time to receive sex offender, mental health and substance abuse treatment.

"A sentence between 240 and 300 months imprisonment would provide a deterrent to this defendant and those who wish to sexually exploit children in our community, while sending a message to others that the sexual exploitation of children will not be tolerated, including bestiality," Miller wrote.

She added that a longer period behind bars would "protect the public from future crimes of this defendant."

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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