Metro East priest facing more than 15 child pornography charges


January 8, 2018

An associate Catholic priest from a church in Mascoutah, Illinois is facing multiple charges of possessing and disseminating child pornography.

Belleville police arrested Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, the associate pastor at Holy Childhood Church and School, Monday after reportedly finding him in possession of multiple pornographic images and videos of children under the age of 13.

The officers were turned onto the 54-year-old Hechenberger from an anonymous tip from the Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force indicating he was distributing child pornography.

Detectives surveilled Hechenberger online and in person and were eventually granted a warrant to search the rectory at Holy Childhood Catholic Church Monday.

Officers reportedly found drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine along with the images and videos of children.

“There is a rotten apple in every bunch and that should not discredit the church of anyone else because of one person making a mistake,” said Andrea Sisson, a lifelong Mascoutah resident. “It doesn’t deter me from knowing anyone from there or them doing good in the community. Like I said, one man can’t ruin or bring a community down.”

Hechenberger faces eight counts of disseminating child pornography in which the victim is less than 13 years old, seven counts of possession of child pornography, one count of possessing child pornography on video and one count of possessing methamphetamine.

He had been at the parish for six years. Previously, he had let it be known he was suffering from depression. At this time there are no known complaints lodged against him in the past. None of the attendees at Tuesday night’s service agreed to speak about the situation.

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