Lost cellphone leads to child-porn arrest

EVERETT — The recovery of an apparently lost cellphone, picked up last week along the shoulder of Highway 99 in Seattle, has led to a Stanwood man’s arrest for collecting a large stash of child pornography.

The silver LG smart phone was spotted Thursday by a man who was driving along the northbound lanes of Highway 99. It was near the concrete barrier, about a mile south of CenturyLink Field. Traffic was too heavy to stop, so the man waited until early the next morning, and picked up the phone on his way to work.

The man powered up the device and found a text message from somebody who identified himself as the son of the phone’s owner. The person who sent the text was asking if anyone had found the missing phone.

The man traded several messages and made arrangements to return the phone. Before going to the meeting, however, he became curious about the owner, and decided to look at the phone’s photo gallery.

“Inside the gallery he located 149 videos and pictures of children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old engaged in sex acts with adults,” according to an affidavit prepared by a detective with the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force.

The man took the phone to the Gig Harbor Police Department, where he shared the discovery with a state trooper.

Detectives quickly obtained a judge’s permission to conduct a forensic search of the phone and to use it to communicate with others.

They not only recovered apparent child pornography but also learned the identity of the phone’s suspected owner: Patrick Sheely, 59, of Stanwood.

An undercover detective arranged a meeting at a convenience store along I-5 in north Marysville. Sheely showed up and reportedly thanked the stranger for helping him.

The detective confirmed the man’s name and that the smartphone was his. Then he gave the signal for other detectives to move in and make the arrest.

Sheely asked for an attorney, but not before he reportedly provided detectives with a taped statement, claiming that sexually explicit images involving children regularly “just popped up” on his home computer.

Sheely was booked into the Snohomish County Jail in Everett.

At a bail hearing on Monday, deputy prosecutor Toni Montgomery asked Everett District Court Judge Roger Fisher to maintain bail at $250,000.

Detectives now are searching computers from the suspect’s home, she said.

“I think there is a serious concern for the youth of this community,” Montgomery said. Sheely has no previous criminal history.

Reporter Eric Stevick contributed to this story.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com

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