Children’s Minister Suspected of Child Porn Commits Suicide

It appears that a Florida detective and children’s minister, Vernon Allan Richardson, committed suicide on February 19 while under investigation for possessing child pornography.

“Nobody in a million years would have ever believed something like this [was] possible,” Rick Baldwin, pastor of Riverstone Community Church, told Jacksonville station News4Jax. Richardson and his wife led children’s ministry at Riverstone.

Baldwin met with Richardson’s family after the detective’s passing, observing, “You can imagine what they’re going through right now. I mean they’re just struggling, they’re overwhelmed…they’re hurting.”

What Happened

The Florida Times-Union reports that authorities found Richardson, age 56, around midday in the woods off Tynes Boulevard near Pine Ridge Parkway in Jacksonville. He appears to have died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

According to the Times-Union, Richardson first came under investigation for possessing child pornography in December when someone tipped off the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. News4Jax states that during the Christmas holiday, “images depicting nude children were traced to his IP address.”

The Times-Union says that at the beginning of February, after finding an image of two boys performing a sexual act uploaded to Richardson’s computer, detectives obtained and served Richardson with a search warrant and questioned him. He denied the allegations pertaining to child pornography but did admit to watching pornography on his cell phone. Richardson told police he searches for “sex with wives” and at one point said, “If I was going to watch child pornography, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to upload it or download it.”

Nevertheless, according to First Coast News (FCN), “Deputies located two images of child pornography Wednesday, Feb. 13, during a search of his computer. By Feb. 18, probable cause was established for the alleged crimes and an arrest warrant was issued.”

The Times-Union says that these images were of a boy and a girl, respectively, each age seven to nine, and both nude. Richardson was found dead before police could arrest him.

While he was serving as a burglary detective at the time of his death, Richardson was known for his work finding juveniles who had gone missing. He had worked with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) for 17 years, and in 2012, he received the Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award from the JSO for “consistent efforts and dedication to locate missing children.”

‘Utter Disbelief’

According to News4Jax, the day after Richardson’s passing, his church held a meeting so the congregation could grieve and process what had happened. Media were not allowed to attend, although church members spoke to a reporter off-camera and said that they were in “utter disbelief.” Church leadership has scheduled grief counselors to be at the church this Sunday, and there are plans for the counselors to meet with children of the church.

Pastor Baldwin told FCN that the church body would do everything possible to support Richardson’s family: “Whatever we can do for them, whatever they ask us to do for them, we’re gonna do our best to do. Even the worst of things God will bring glory to himself and he’ll bring good to his people.”

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Jessica Mouser
Jessica Mouser is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. She especially enjoys evaluating how various beliefs play out within culture. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.

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