By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The case against a man arrested late last year in relation to a child exploitation investigation was heard briefly in a Taber courtroom Jan. 16.
The matter was simply adjourned for several weeks, however, to allow time for the accused’s lawyer to receive and review disclosure on charges of sexual assault, making child pornography, accessing child pornography, and possessing child pornography.
The investigation by ALERT Internet Child Exploitation also resulted in the rescue of a school-age child, and the arrest of the child’s mother, who is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, making child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and possession of child pornography.
The child has received help from a variety of specialized support services, including Alberta Children’s Services.
ICE arrested the child’s mother on Nov. 2, 2023 after searching a Lethbridge home. Officers went to the home after uncovering evidence of the alleged abuse from a case that took place earlier in the year in Barnwell and resulted in the arrest of a 41-year-old man. Police believe the two suspects were in a previous relationship and sexually assaulted the child, in addition to sharing child sexual abuse materials.
Police searched the Barnwell home on Sept. 19, following a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that shared information about an Alberta suspect uploading child pornography through Facebook.
A forensic analysis of computers seized from the Barnwell home identified nearly half a million photos and videos of child sexual abuse materials. Among the collection, ICE identified a series of materials that they believe are unique and were possibly created by the accused.
Further investigation revealed the materials were produced in Alberta, and ICE was able to identify a suspect and the child being abused.
Both accused were released following their arrests, the man to appear in court Jan. 16, and the woman to attend Taber court on Jan. 30. The man’s next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20. A publication ban prohibits publishing any information that could lead to the identification of the child.