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A local youth pastor and public school teacher was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony.

Sheriff’s office detectives were alerted to possible distribution of child pornography through a cyber-tip from a social media site on May 22, 2022. Detectives discovered Edward Wilds III, 44, of Palatka had downloaded pornography images from Palatka Baptist Temple’s Wi-Fi following a Wednesday evening service.

In total 54,000 images were discovered on accounts and devices associated with Wilds. The majority of the images were pornographic. Wilds told detectives he had been banned by the company of one social media site several times. Detectives discovered messaging conversations where Wilds was asked by another user for images of children between the ages of 14-16 years old. He sent 42 images.

The investigation into these types of cyber crime cases can take months based on subpoenas written.

In March detectives met with Wilds and took possession of his electronic devices and completed a forensic download. At that time the sheriff’s office informed the Putnam County School District and Wilds was suspended and removed from the classroom. At the time of his suspension, Wilds was teaching at Middleton-Burney Elementary School.

Images from the download included a male child exposing his genitals to the camera.

On April 12 a probable cause affidavit was submitted to the state attorney’s office and a warrant for Wilds’ arrest was issued today.

“This is a clear-cut case of child sexual exploitation and I’m deeply troubled by the commission of such heinous crime in our hometown,” Sheriff H.D. ‘Gator’ DeLoach said. “The exploitation and abuse of children is a despicable act that has no place in our society. Wilds’ behavior is disgusting, vile, and repugnant and I will not tolerate it in our county. Today’s arrest of Wilds for possession of child pornography serves as a stark reminder that we all have a responsibility to be vigilant in protecting our children from all forms of abuse. I remain fully committed to continue the partnership with Dr. Surrency and his staff to eradicate such crimes and to ensure that our children can grow up and learn in a safe and secure environment. Here’s my message to all the sick, perverted scum who commit these crimes and whose moral compass is nonexistent: if you think you are going to victimize our children here and get away with it, test that theory at your earliest convenience and I’m personally coming for you.”

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