David Alan Pettigrew
Denison Church of the Nazarene
Secret Cameras at Church Recorded 11 to 14-year-olds Undressing, Bathing.
SHERMAN, Texas – The Eastern District of Texas sentenced a Denison man to federal prison for sex crimes against children, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.
David Alan Pettigrew, 49, pleaded guilty on April 7, 2021, to sexual exploitation of children, conspiracy and attempt and was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant.
“David Pettigrew is a predator who used his position to exploit children for his gratification,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “Parents and kids in Grayson County trusted Pettigrew as an educator, pastor, and friend, all the while unaware of his criminal intent. Working with children is nothing short of a privilege, and EDTX is committed to ensuring that those who assume responsibility for children do not violate that position of trust.”
“The deviant behavior of any individual that occupies a position or role of public trust, especially one that betrays that trust, is unforgivable and repulsive. The actions and the emotional trauma Pettigrew caused to the innocent children he preyed upon is devastating and life-altering,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Dallas. “Protecting those most vulnerable is a top priority for HSI, and we will never relent in our pursuit of characters like Pettigrew who breach their positions of trust to exploit minors.”
According to information presented in court, Pettigrew came to the attention of law enforcement through referrals sent by two electronic service providers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which indicated that a user had uploaded files of suspected child pornography. Investigators traced the leads to Pettigrew’s home in Denison and the Denison Church of the Nazarene. Members of HSI and the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office served search warrants at both locations on August 6, 2020, at which time they arrested Pettigrew for transporting child pornography.
As the investigation progressed, investigators discovered that Pettigrew and co-defendant Chad Michael Rider had set up hidden cameras in various locations to capture children in different stages of undress. On August 19, 2020, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Pettigrew with transportation of child pornography and both Pettigrew and Rider with conspiring to and attempting to exploit children (a/k/a production of child pornography) sexually.
As part of his plea, Pettigrew admitted to conspiring with Rider to record minors, including while the children were nude, at locations in Collin and Grayson counties. They filmed the videos using various hidden cameras, including cameras disguised as hooks, clocks, a picture frame, a smoke detector, an AC wall adapter, charging blocks, and a pen. Pettigrew further admitted that he secretly filmed a child in his home. He and Rider filmed children undressing, bathing, and toweling off at the Denison Church of the Nazarene in Grayson County. The children were all approximately 11 to 14 years old when they recorded them without their knowledge.
The case against Rider is ongoing and remains pending.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing child sexual exploitation and abuse epidemic. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources led the case to locate better, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
Homeland Security Investigations and the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Miller was the prosecutor.