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‘We had no idea’ says family of Hanover child porn suspect: 'It’s destroyed our family'

William Michael Yauger, Jr.
Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 18:34:14-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va., -- A man whose home is known for its elaborate Christmas light display was arrested on possession of child pornography charges.

His family said they were blindsided by the arrest.

Hanover Sheriff Sgt. Steve DiLoreto said investigators executed a search warrant at a home on Wedgewood Road in Mechanicsville on Wednesday morning.

Deputies arrested 52-year-old William Michael Yauger, Jr. and charged him with felony possession of child pornography.

Detectives seized two cell phones, a laptop, and a desktop computer from the home, according to a search warrant obtained by CBS 6.

Investigators alleged Yauger uploaded “10 files associated with potential child exploitation images” to the social media app MeWe with username “Will M2.” The files were uploaded between November 24, 2019 and December 9, 2019, according to the warrant.

Detectives stated they were able to connect Yauger’s email address and IP address to the graphic photos.

A MeWe spokesperson said in a statement their team reported Yauger to authorities on December 9.

“We had no idea,” Yauger’s stepdaughter said. “I just want to apologize to the community and let them know we had nothing to do with it.”

Their house has appeared on the annual Richmond Tacky Lights Tour of over-the-top Christmas light displays and was recognized as a past Let It Glow winner.

The Cherrydale neighborhood has dubbed the home “The Christmas House.” The home is decorated with 65,000 lights and ornaments that fill their front yard.

“We put Christmas lights every year and that’s my mom’s doing,” Yauger’s stepdaughter explained. “We don’t want people to associate our house with him trying to lure children in here because we had no idea.”

Detectives said they do not believe any of the victims in the photos are local to Hanover County.

Yauger’s family said since the news of his arrest broke, they’ve been on the receiving end of harassing and hateful comments on social media.

“Honestly, it sickens us. It’s destroyed our family. But, I just want people to stop associating us with him because we literally had no idea,” they stated. “Please at this time respect our family and our privacy.”

Yauger was arraigned in Hanover Juvenile Domestic Relations Court on Thursday afternoon. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 27.

He is being held without bond at Pamunkey Regional Jail.

The search warrant was executed by members of Hanover County Sheriff’s Office/General Investigations Unit, Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force and Federal Bureau Of Investigations/Child Exploitation Task Force.

Bill Meeks, the neighborhood president, recalled seeing deputies in the area on Wednesday.

“It was disheartening,” Meeks said about hearing news of the arrest. “We have laws on the books for reason and maybe it’ll be a deterrent if someone else in the area is thinking about going down that road.”

A MeWe spokesman said in a statement:

"This person was banned and removed from MeWe and our team reported him to the authorities on December 9. MeWe’s Terms of Service is strict and clear: illegal activity and pornography are prohibited, and our Trust and Safety Team works hard every day to remove it.

The MeWe team is vigilant about this issue, and we and have partnered with IWF (Internet Watch Foundation), Sift Science, and Arkose Labs, in order to stop known bad actors at the door and find them if they've gotten inside.

As reported by the New York Times, Facebook was responsible for nearly 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of child sexual abuse material. As Facebook moves forward with its plan to encrypt all user messages across Facebook services, this will become even more problematic. FBI Director Christopher Wray even called Facebook's plan a 'dream come true' for child pornographers."