Child porn case leads to arrest in Atwater

ATWATER — A 52-year-old Atwater man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of child pornography charges after law enforcement served a search warrant at his home, Merced police reported.

Police say they were alerted to suspect Kirby Lee Affholter after Detective Dan Dabney was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about an Orange County child pornography investigation.

That investigation led law enforcement to suspect that Affholter was involved in the case, allegedly receiving and distributing child pornography, according to Sgt. Scott Skinner.

About 2 p.m. Wednesday, Merced and Atwater police, along with agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Central Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, served a warrant at Affholter’s 593 Fortuna Ave. residence.

During the preliminary search, agents say they found about 50 images of child pornography they suspected he’d received and distributed electronically. All the images were of girls under age 14, they said. Computers were seized under the search warrant, Skinner said, adding that more investigation will be done to determine whether other illegal images are present on the computers.

Under questioning by detectives, Affholter admitted the he’d received and sent the child pornography from his computer and that what he was doing was wrong. He also admitted using a fake screen name and posing as a female through emails and Facebook with the Orange County suspect to receive the child pornography. Affholter described his activities as a “fantasy game” he was playing, Skinner said.

A registered sex offender, Affholter was convicted in 1991 of committing a lewd and lascivious act with a child.

He was booked at the Merced County Jail on suspicion of distributing child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and possession of images depicting minors engaged in sexual conduct.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about the case to call Dabney at (209) 385-7719 or the department’s tip line at (209) 385-4725. Tips are kept confidential and callers can remain anonymous.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com. ___

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