Terlingua man sentenced to 87 months for possession of child pornography

TERLINGUA — Last Tuesday, a Terlingua man was sentenced to 87 months in prison for possession of child pornography. Harold Lee McMullen, 74, was discovered to have over 400 images depicting the sexual abuse of children after the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) flagged his IP address for exchanging sexually explicit content over BitTorrent. 

McMullen was arrested on August 5, 2023, after he was flagged for potential illegal activity. Homeland Security Investigations [HSI] Special Agent Adam Patterson executed the search warrant on McMullen’s home and found “multiple electronic data storage devices” that were pre-scanned on site using remote computer forensics technology. 

Patterson eventually found a thumb drive containing over 40 sexually explicit images of “female children 5 years old to 10 years old,” which was enough to remove McMullen from the home. “There were many, many more child pornography photos but [I] stopped at 40 for the sake of probable cause for arrest,” he wrote in his criminal complaint to U.S. Magistrate Judge David Fannin. 

In September of 2023, McMullen pled guilty to charges of possession of child pornography. (His attorney, Sandy Wilson, did not respond to a request for comment.)

“The sexual abuse of children is horrific and individuals like Mr. McMullen who further traffic such despicable material continue the harmful exploitation of these innocent children,” U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza wrote in a press release. “Along with our partners, we will continue to hold offenders accountable for their actions.”

The investigation was a part of Project Safe Childhood, an initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse led by the Department of Justice. In a report to Congress in 2023, the Department of Justice painted a bleak picture of the proliferation of child pornography online. Over the past 15 years, the number of identified victims has increased ninefold; the annual number of defendants has tripled. “Today there are more victims and more offenders than ever before, and a seemingly endless stream of [child sexual abuse material] circulating online,” the report reads. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operates a “Cyber Tipline” that can be used to report incidents of abuse. To make a report, visit: https://report.cybertip.org/.