A Middle Tennessee community is reeling over the arrest of a well-known man accused of serious crimes against children. And, now, a city council member who's defended him is receiving death threats.
Thomas Wagner, 70, is the editor of the Cowan community paper and has sold ice cream from his main street restaurant. But police have charged him for what they call the largest child pornography case they've ever seen.
It took four police cars to remove all of the evidence from his home, including thumb drives, hard drives, magazines and box after box of home videos allegedly showing young boys posing in disturbing positions, along with hundreds of pictures, officers say, Wagner admitted to taking himself.
"What hurts the most in this is you have children who are victims, and we don't know how many. That is the part that is inexplicably nauseating in all of this," said Cowan resident Jarod Pearson.
City Councilman Tom McGee refuses to believe it. He's been handing out flyers defending Wagner's honor, saying Wagner is a model citizen who now needs help with his legal defense.
McGee, who said he wouldn't talk on camera, said someone has egged his home and business two nights in a row, and he's now receiving death threats.
"Sometimes you don't know. You could live right next to someone and never really know that person," said Cowan Police Chief Allen Edwards.
Wagner moved to Cowan five years ago with a clean record, but some of the images found in his home date back to 1986. Police don't believe any of the victims live in Cowan, so they are now tasked with finding out where.
"We're not sure where all these kids are today. Again, he moved here from California. The victims may even be adults at this point, but it would be nice to let them know that the person responsible finally has been brought to justice," Edwards said.
Police have just started their investigation, and Cowan police and worked closely with Winchester police on the case. They say several computers need forensic analysis, and more charges and arrests could follow.
Wagner has been jailed on $150,000 bond. Channel 4 News reached out to a number listed under his name for comment, and the person who answered said Wagner is still looking for an attorney.
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Saturday, July 26 2014 1:38 AM EDT2014-07-26 05:38:59 GMT
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