Texas pastor pleads guilty to possession of child sex abuse images

NBC News [New York NY]

July 3, 2023

By Julianne McShane

David Lloyd Walther, 57, admitted downloading the materials to a computer at Faith Baptist Church in Round Rock, where he was pastor before his arrest in November.

A Texas pastor pleaded guilty to an enhanced charge of possession of child sex abuse images after he admitted having downloaded some of the materials at his church, according to federal prosecutors and court documents.

David Lloyd Walther, 57, “knowingly searched for, downloaded, distributed and possessed” child sex abuse images, some of which depicted prepubescent minors, on a peer-to-peer file sharing network while he was the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Round Rock, a city 18 miles north of Austin, the U.S. attorney’s office for Western Texas said Thursday.

Walther was arrested Nov. 9 after a search of his home and car turned up two large computer hard drives with more than 100,000 images and more than 5,000 videos of child sex abuse material, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

He was released on home detention with GPS monitoring on Nov. 17 and was prohibited from using any computers or having any contact with minors.

He pleaded guilty in federal court in Austin on June 27, court records show.

Walther could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

It was not immediately clear when he would be sentenced. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office said a sentencing date had not yet been scheduled.

In a statement, Worth Carroll, an attorney representing Walther, said: “David’s guilty plea is the next step in the healing process after he experienced horrendous childhood abuse where ‘trusted adults’ and the system repeatedly failed to protect him. Since his arrest, David and his family have courageously worked to confront his own abuse, address how he was neglected and abused, and begin making amends for the harm he has caused. I am proud of him, encouraged by the work he has done, and amazed by the love and compassion of his family.

Representatives of Faith Baptist Church could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Court documents outlining the disturbing allegations say Walther downloaded some of the materials to a computer when he was at the church. The complaint alleges he also downloaded other child sex abuse materials to a computer at his residence in Georgetown, about 10 miles north of Round Rock.

When investigators searched Walther’s residence after they obtained federal search warrants, he allegedly admitted, among other things, “that he had a pornography addiction and would often go through cycles of downloading and viewing pornography depicting both adults and minors” but said he did not know he was sharing the child sex abuse files on the peer-to-peer network, according to the criminal complaint.

Walther also allegedly admitted that “he would download child pornography files, but would often feel guilty and go through a ‘purging’ of files, i.e., deleting the images and associated files, because he knew it was wrong,” adding that he had last deleted such files Nov. 8, the night before authorities served the search warrants, the complaint says. He apologized for his actions, it says.

In a statement Walther filed with the court the day after his arrest, he wrote that he was “ashamed and repulsed by my actions and behavior” and that he considers himself a pedophile. He wrote that he estimates he first viewed child sex abuse images when he was 10 years old and that he started accessing such materials regularly about eight years before his arrest.

He also appeared to endorse his own detention: “If there is no proven and accepted method to help with my addiction to child pornography, then I should be separated from society forever,” Walther wrote.

Walther also filed a statement Nov. 10 admitting that he had been “grooming” an unidentified minor or minors “for sexual conduct or activity in the future.”