On December 3, 2021, Tyler Southwell, 28, of Plymouth, was sentenced to six years in the Indiana Department of Correction after pleading guilty to two counts of Possession of Child Pornography. The charges were filed in Marshall Superior Court 3, with the sentence imposed by Judge Matthew Sarber.
The investigation began in October 2020 and was led by the Indiana State Police. It started when police received a notice from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) alerting them that possible child pornography was stored in a Google account with ties to the area. Federal law requires U.S.-based electronic service providers, such as Google, to report instances of apparent child pornography to NCMEC’s CyberTipline. NCMEC then relays the information to local law enforcement for further investigation.
In this case, the Indiana State Police tracked the images to a Google account owned by Southwell. Police learned that Southwell lived in Plymouth and eventually obtained and executed a search warrant at his house this past January. Southwell freely admitted his involvement and was charged with five counts of Possession of Child Pornography, a Level 5 felony. Each count carried a possible sentence from one to six years imprisonment, with an advisory sentence of three years.
Under the terms of the plea, Southwell admitted guilt to two of the charges, and the remaining three counts were dismissed, with the parties free to argue regarding the appropriate sentence. Deputy Prosecutor Ken Biggins represented the State and argued that the two counts should be served consecutively, one after the other, and asked for a total eight-year executed sentence, followed by two years of probation. Biggins highlighted the egregious nature of the pictures, the harm to the victims, and Southwell’s prior criminal history as aggravating factors. Defense attorney Paul Stanko argued for a lesser sentence, highlighting Southwell’s remorse and his acceptance of responsibility.
In determining the appropriate sentence, Judge Matthew Sarber found Southwell’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility as mitigating factors, however, he noted as aggravators Southwell’s criminal history, the nature of the images, and his placement under the Indiana Risk Assessment System. Sarber imposed an aggravated sentence of six years at the Indiana Department of Correction on each count and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman added, “although these were pornographic photographs of helpless children obtained by the defendant, there is no evidence that he actually took the photos himself or when the actual photos were taken. What many people do not realize, is for people like Southwell to digitally collect and share online photos of this sort, the children depicted are victimized over and over again. The sentence here is appropriate, and we trust, will meet the rehabilitative goals of incarceration. We certainly expect Southwell to not re-offend.”