N.H. Man Charged With Child Porn

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Lebanon — A former day care center director has been charged with four felony counts of possessing child pornography.

Michael Whelton, 53, of Enfield, told police the illicit images were sent to him through an online messenger account and he in turn shared them with others, all while using a laptop computer connected to his position at the Children’s Center of the Upper Valley , according to court documents.

Lebanon Police Lt. Stephen Louis said parents with children attending the day care center, located on Mechanic Street near Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, have little reason to fear that their children were victimized.

“At this point, we don’t believe there are any local victims,” Louis said in a phone interview on Monday, though he declined to specify why police are confident of that.

Whelton, who worked at the center for two years before he was terminated for unrelated reasons in July, was arrested on Sept. 6. He is being held at the Grafton County House of Corrections pending his probable cause hearing at 10:30 a.m. next Monday in Lebanon District Court.

Cash bail is set at $25,000. No pleas have been entered. Court documents indicate that Whelton does not have a prior criminal record.

Whelton’s attorney, James Rosenberg of Concord-based Shaheen and Gordon, P.A., said he couldn’t comment on specifics in the case because he hasn’t received a copy of the arrest affidavit.

“We wish to work with the state to understand the allegations and to learn the facts and circumstances of their investigation so that we can work cooperatively with the state to assess whether or not we might find any fair outcomes,” Rosenberg said in a phone interview on Monday.

He added: “There is no allegation whatsoever that the pending charges relate in any way to his professional responsibilities.”

Jenifer Langley, board president of the Children’s Center, sent a letter home to parents of students who attend the center on Sept. 11 informing them of Whelton’s arrest.

“We have no direct knowledge of any inappropriate activity by any other Children’s Center employee and no reason to believe that any persons being cared for by the center were involved in any way,” the letter said. “Policies and procedures are in place to support a safe and healthy environment at the Children’s Center.

“The board and staff leadership will review our relevant policies and procedures to assure that we continue to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our children.”

Langley said in a phone interview on Monday that the center performed standard background checks on Whelton, as required by state law. Several rounds of interview s were also conducted, she said.

When asked why Whelton was terminated from the center, Langley said, “I am not at liberty to discuss (that).”

According to the arrest affidavit available at the Lebanon courthouse, Whelton returned the work laptop to center staff following his July 28 termination, which stemmed from allegations of embezzlement.

“Suspicious websites that caused concern about the possibility of child pornography” were found on the device, which was subsequently turned over to police, the arrest affidavit said.

A search of the laptop in August turned up “numerous images” of child pornography, according to police.

Four photos are detailed in court documents and all depict children “who are obviously under the age of 18” being sexually abused, the affidavit states.

All of the photos were located inside a photo sharing directory inside the website Yahoo! Messenger, a site that offers functions such as text messaging and file sharing, according to court documents.

Louis said Lebanon police issued an arrest warrant for Whelton on Sept. 5, and that Whelton was taken into custody the following day by police in Methuen, Mass.

Whelton waived extradition at a hearing in Lawrence, Mass., and was transported to New Hampshire on Sept. 10, Louis said. Whelton was a rraigned on the charges in Lebanon District Court the next day.

Documents show Whelton lived in Tewksbury, Mass., for several decades before moving to New Hampshire two years ago.

He lived on Sloan Road in Enfield and is listed as being unemployed.

Biographical information on Whelton on the Children’s Center’s website — which was accessed through an Internet archive site because the website is currently inactive — said he started working at the center in August 2012.

Before working in the Upper Valley, Whelton, who is listed as having one son, worked as the executive director of Massachusetts-based Bright Stars for 12 years, according to the biography.

Each of the felony charges carries a state prison sentence of seven to 15 years.

Staff writer Nora Doyle-Burr contributed to this report. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

CORRECTION: Jenifer Langley is the board president of the Children’s Center of the Upper Valley. An earlier version of this story misspelled her first name.