An elementary school principal is the subject of a federal child pornography investigation.
Ricky Delano Sheppard, 59, was arrested by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Task Force on June 3. Sheppard was the principal of Spessard Elementary School in Satellite Beach in Brevard County, Florida, and has been employed with Brevard Public Schools for 35 years.
According to federal investigators, more than 1,100 child pornography images with victims as young as four years old were allegedly found on Sheppard’s computer, as reported by WFTV. The investigation started six months ago when an IP address linked to the former principal residence was used to download child porn.
"As a 36-year law enforcement officer, I can't understand how someone in our society could become this demented," said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. "His actions are unimaginable and violate the very trust that every parent and child had in him. His actions have violated the public's trust, however, I can assure you that our actions as law enforcement officers and school administrators will make sure that he can never put another child in harm's way."
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Sheppard is currently facing charges regarding possession of child pornography, but Ivey mentioned the investigation is still in its early stages.
Brevard County School Board and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn stated the school board immediately relieved Sheppard of his duties as principal. Blackburn said he will ask board members to proceed to remove him permanently and terminate his annual contract.
"Allegations of this nature represent the absolute highest violation of trust by people who are supposed to safeguard our children," Blackburn said at a press conference, as reported by Florida Today.
In 1999, Sheppard was approached over concerns a parent expressed about his behavior toward her son at Gemini Elementary School, as the then-teacher gave a student numerous gifts and mentioned "taking students home with [him]."
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"Your actions included poor judgment, inappropriate comments to a student and singling out a student for special favors," wrote then-principal Joyce Parten in a reprimand letter to Sheppard.
"He should have been gone then," parent Ryan Hubner told WFTV. "That right there, to me, would be a red flag that there’s something was going on."
Sheppard was taken into custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
"I look at this case and I find it hard to understand how anybody could be this demented," added Ivey.