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Florida teacher, coach found with more than 400 files of child pornography, deputies say

November 21, 2020
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A Florida high school teacher and coach has been found with 400 files of child pornography in his possession, deputies said.

Shawn Fitzgerald, 46, is a Lakeland High School teacher, varsity soccer coach and a youth director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow. He was also once employed as a teacher and soccer coach at George Jenkins High School.

On Friday, Fitzgerald was arrested and charged with 408 counts of possessing child porn, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

“An arrest like this shakes the entire community,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “A man entrusted with the education and guidance of so many children, working closely with them, and betraying that trust in such a heinous way. Sadly, people who possess child pornography are out there, all over the world.”

The sheriff’s office first heard of Fitzgerald when a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children revealed that a child porn video was uploaded through KIK Messenger in February. The 20-second video showed a man having sex with a 10- to 12-year-old girl, deputies said.

On Thursday, detectives searched Fitzgerald’s home and found a “Calculator Vault” app on his cellphone that is able to hide saved images.

Fitzgerald told a detective that he used the app to store images from an extramarital affair. A forensic examination of the cell phone found 408 files depicting child pornography, the sheriff’s office said. The images showed both boys and girls being sexually battered by adults and/or having sex with other children. Some of the victims appear to be as young as 10 to 12 months old.

Detectives are still searching Fitzgerald’s phone and other devices. At this time, the sheriff’s office said there is no evidence that the files were made locally.

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