A male resident of Highwood has been charged with multiple sex crimes after a search warrant at his residence revealed hundreds of images and digital videos of child pornography, and video of him having sexual conduct with a dog.
The Highwood Police Department and the Cyber Crimes Division of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office started an investigation into Thomas Keller, 40, of the 300 block of Grove Avenue, after obtaining disturbing information as part of an ongoing child exploitation investigation. Due to this information, investigators with the Lake County State’s Attorney Office and Highwood Police obtained a search warrant for Keller’s residence, then contacted the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to assist in executing the search warrant.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office simultaneously conducted a traffic stop on Keller at 9 a.m. Thursday morning, then assisted by making entry into Keller’s Highwood residence. During the traffic stop, officers confiscated from Keller’s vehicle less than one gram of methamphetamine and a loaded 9mm handgun. Keller has a registered Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, but does not have a conceal carry permit.
During the residential search warrant, officers recovered 10 to 12 hard drives and numerous flash drives from a safe which contained hundreds of files of child pornography. In at least one video, the offender recorded sexual conversations with minors under the age of 13 on the internet, then shared video of other children performing sex acts. Officers also confiscated more methamphetamine, and took possession of a video where the offender had sexual conduct with a dog.
“Crimes like this one that specifically prey on children are some of the most disgusting crimes we face in our office,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim. “My office – and personally as state’s attorney – will work tirelessly to prosecute these offenders to the fullest extent allowed by law. I want to recognize the hard work put in by my staff and all the officers and departments involved in this case.”
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office formally filed Class X felony charges of Production of Child Pornography, Reproduction of Child Pornography, Dissemination of Child Pornography, and Solicitation of Child Pornography. Keller is also charged with a Class 2 felony Possession of Child Pornography, a Class 2 felony Possession of Methamphetamine, a Class 2 felony Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon, and Class 4 felony Sexual Conduct with an Animal.
Keller was represented by the Lake County Public Defender’s Office at a bond hearing Friday morning, where he was ordered held in in Lake County Jail on $750,000 cash bond by Lake County Judge Paul Novak. If able to post bond, Keller is required to remain on 24-hour curfew, not ingest drugs, alcohol or weapons, and is forbidden from having any contact with any minor children. He is due back in courtroom T-110 at 9 a.m. on Aug. 13 for a preliminary hearing.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said, “This is a terrific example of law enforcement coming together to keep our most vulnerable safe. As a result of the hard work of our sheriff’s office, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, and numerous other agencies, this man will not be able to continue to prey on children in our community.”
Investigators and detectives from Highwood Police, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office were assisted by investigators and officers from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center, the Waukegan Bomb Squad, and Lake Forest and Round Lake Beach police departments.
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