crime

A UF employee was behind bars after a child pornography investigation led authorities to campus Wi-Fi. 

Authorities executed a search warrant Thursday at 26-year-old Timothy Turner’s home near Gainesville High School. He lives with his wife and two other roommates, according to the Gainesville Police Department arrest report. 

Turner has been a data entry specialist with UF’s family nutrition program since 2016, according to his LinkedIn.  

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip in September 2019 that a user on Discord, a chat app for gamers, shared three sexually exploitative images of children, according to the report. An investigation traced the IP address of the user back to Turner. 

Turner is accused of using UF’s Wi-Fi network on campus to “do some of the deeds that he did,” said Gainesville Police Department spokesperson Jorge Campos. 

As of Sunday evening, Turner is still employed at UF and his employment status is under review, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando. As of now, he’s prohibited from being on campus. 

He admitted to authorities Thursday he was the owner of the Discord account, adding that no one else has access to his cell phone, which he used for the app, according to the report. 

After being read his Miranda rights, he said he found the images himself on Discord and knew they were of children, according to the report. Turner told police the photos were not his “normal preference” but said he was sexually aroused by them.

As of Friday afternoon, the underage children in the photos have not been identified by GPD, Campos said.

More than 100 tips regarding child pornography are submitted each year for the North Central Florida area, which includes Gainesville tips. 

“Just because we don’t hear of it all the time, doesn’t mean it’s not going on,” Campos said, adding that due to the nature of the crime, it’s often committed in private.

Tips that are not solved are kept in a criminal intelligence database for later investigation, Campos said. Encryption devices and services that block legal access to possible evidence and leads can sometimes complicate these investigations.

“Those things really hinder or prohibit us from identifying a suspect and, in some cases, victims,” Campos said.

Authorities are working to minimize the impact on potential victims, as well as protecting existing victims from having their photos circulated by investigating these tips, according to Campos.  

Turner was released Saturday at 1:22 a.m. after he was held in the Alachua County Jail on three felony counts of promotion of sexual performance by a child. His bond was $75,000.

Contact Samia Lagmis and Alex De Luca at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow them on Twitter @SLagmis and @alexldeluca.