Valentine math teacher of 19 years arrested on child pornography charges

VALENTINE — A high school math teacher who had been with Valentine ISD for 19 years, and who previously taught in Marfa, is facing federal charges for possessing, sending and receiving child pornography. 

Albert Ackley, 59, openly admitted to accessing and sharing child pornography when he was approached by a special agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety executing a search warrant at his Valentine home on March 15, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. He was detained and brought to the Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office, where he waived his Miranda rights to continue confessing to Texas DPS.

Ackley was taken to Hudspeth County Jail, according to DPS. Court records show that he was formally arrested and charged on March 21, and is currently being detained without bond. His preliminary hearing is set for March 31 in Pecos. The search of Ackley’s home was carried out with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, the Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Highway Patrol.

Authorities also searched the Valentine school on March 15, said Valentine ISD Superintendent and Principal Debbie Engle. She spoke to an investigator again the following week, she said, and was told no victims associated with the school had been identified and that nothing had been found on any school devices. The school obtained Ackley’s resignation on March 17.

Engle said any potential harm done to students has been looked into, and no such harm has been uncovered — the school brought in a counselor to speak with students and staff last week, and those interviews did not raise concerns.

“I have ex-students that have called, and they don’t believe it,” said Engle. “There has been nobody that has come forward with so much as a whisper.” 

The ordeal has been a profound shock for the school, said Engle. “I truly believed they would not find anything when they filed the search warrant,” she said. “We were all blown away. The staff has had a really hard time. Nobody saw it. Nobody suspected it.”

Now, the school is looking to the future and trying to move on after the disturbing revelation. “We’re dealing with it, we’re doing the best we can, and we’re trying our best to move forward,” said Engle. “And we’re sticking together, so I think we’ll be okay.”

Ackley had taught at Marfa ISD before coming to Valentine nearly two decades ago — a February 11, 1999, issue of The Big Bend Sentinel identified him as a high school science, math and computer teacher who was set to become the district’s technology coordinator. 

According to the criminal complaint, which is based on the sworn affidavit of Texas DPS Special Agent Adam Patterson, the agency received a cybercrime tip in late February from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that the smartphone application KIK Messenger had flagged possible child pornography being uploaded via their server — the videos uploaded included depictions of female children between the ages of 9 and 12. The messaging service handed over the files and the uploader’s IP address to Patterson, who linked that IP address to Ackley. 

Patterson later learned that Homeland Security Investigations had already opened an investigation into Ackley in 2019 for uploading child pornography via the messaging service, the complaint says.

When Patterson arrived at Ackley’s property in Valentine, he told him someone at the property was using the internet to look at child pornography, and asked if he knew who was doing so — Ackley admitted that it was him, and that he had used KIK to exchange child pornography. 

Texas DPS searched the property and found a memory card for smartphones that contained three videos depicting child pornography. One video depicted a female child approximately three or four years old, and the other two depicted female children approximately 11 to 12 years old. More electronic devices and memory cards were taken from the home and are being investigated.

While being questioned by DPS, Ackley said he had used KIK to send and receive child pornography more than 50 times, and that he had used it to have inappropriate exchanges with three underage girls, per the complaint. He also said he had sexual contact with two female children when he was around 20 years old — one was 8 years old and the other was 12 years old, he told DPS. He shared the names of the minors with DPS. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Jack Meredith, the federal public defender assigned to represent Ackley, did not immediately return a request for comment.

In a statement, Texas DPS said that “additional investigations” are necessary to identify other potential victims. The department is asking anyone with information on possible victims to contact the DPS Victim Services office at 512-424-2211.