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Pastor charged in child pornography case

SPRINGFIELD - A former Girard church pastor indicted this week by a federal grand jury is accused of using his position as a nursing home chaplain to access child pornography.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Springfield said Howard D. Shockey, 59, is charged with possession of child pornography for an incident on July 7.

He was a pastor of the Church of Brethren Church in Girard, where he served almost seven years, and was chaplain of the Pleasant Hill Nursing Home in Girard. He has been terminated from both positions, officials said Thursday.

The indictment alleges that Shockey was seen viewing child pornography on a computer by a staff member of the nursing home. The staff member filed a complaint the following day with Girard Police Chief David Campbell. Girard is in Macoupin County.

Campbell said he immediately contacted the proper authorities necessary in investigating and prosecuting the case. He declined further comment Thursday.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service Southern Illinois Cyber Crime Unit, the Girard Police Department and the Illinois State Police.

In an affidavit, Campbell told Illinois State Police Special Agent David Wargo that the nursing home staff member reported the incident to Campbell on July 8, stating the staff member had seen Shockey using the computer to view an obscene image of a 12- to 13-year-old girl.

The affidavit also states that Wargo found images of nude young girls under a computer user account titled "Howard S," and that Shockey admitted viewing child pornography.

Shockey was arrested July 9 and charged in the federal complaint. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory M. Gilmore is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, the statutory penalty for possession of child pornography is up to 10 years in prison. The offense also carries a term of supervised release of up to life following any term of imprisonment.

Shockey was released on a recognizance bond following a hearing July 13 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore, and now is awaiting trial.

"(Shockey) is no longer chaplain of the nursing home," Donna Whitehead, administrator of the Pleasant Hill Nursing Home in Girard, said Thursday. "Our facility conducted an in-house investigation, and he was immediately terminated, I think on July 7 or the next day."

Whitehead declined further comment.

Karen Bridges, board chairwoman of the Church of the Brethren in Girard, did not return telephone messages Thursday. However, former Church of the Brethren pastor Leon Swigart said it was his understanding that the board had removed Shockey as pastor.

"I do not know all the details, if they asked him to resign or simply removed him as pastor," Swigart said. "I am so sorry that this has happened, as I consider Howard a friend. I retired as pastor of the church in 2003, and Howard followed me as pastor.

"I can honestly say I am struggling right now on how best to serve Howard in this unfortunate case, but we are taught in scripture that we are all brothers, and if one is hurting, we are all hurting," Swigart said. "So, I will turn to our Lord for guidance in how best to minister to Howard."