A judge sentenced 23-year-old Richard Shaffer to 50 years Friday with all but 10 suspended for not only having child pornography on his home computer, but sexually abusing a toddler.
A Louisa detective with the sheriff's office said Shaffer tried to send child porn through his AOL account. That email was red-flagged! A cyber tip to his office led to a search of Shaffer's home computer and hundreds of sexually explicit images involving children.
Chat rooms and social networking sites are feeding grounds for sexual predators. It's Louisa Detective Patrick Siewert's job to hunt them down. But in the case involving Richard Shaffer, a cyber tip brought Siewert to Shaffer's home in Bumpass.
"We don't actually get cyber tips that often. I'd say either one or two a year," said Detective Siewert.
It was summer 2009, when Shaffer tried to send on an email to someone outside Louisa with a sexually explicit attachment. An image of known child pornography. Every known file Siewert said has a unique signature.
"That file signature was captured on his email address and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," said Siewert.
The group tipped off the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Siewert got the case and recovered Shaffer's computer, which had a lot more pictures of children engaged in sex acts with men.
"If I had to put a number on the images I'd say around 750," said Siewert.
During that investigation, detectives found out Shaffer sexually assaulted a one year old. Shaffer pleaded guilty last November. During sentencing at Louisa Circuit Court, the prosecutor told the judge the cyber tip saved the child from a lifetime of abuse.
"It's important to bear in mind that there are always victims in these cases. It's not just about pictures, it's not just about chats," said Siewert.
When Shaffer's prison sentence is up, he'll be eligible for evaluation as a sexually violent predator by the Office of the Attorney General to make sure he's no longer a risk. But if it's determined he is, prosecutors tell me he won't be released.