Five law enforcement agencies — local, state and federal — worked together to solve a disturbing case in Maricopa that seems fit for “To Catch a Predator” host Chris Hansen.
Last week, Maricopa Police Department arrested 23-year-old Aaron Ketzler at his Senita home. The crimes he’s accused of committing inside that home on Ibis Way are unsettling.
The twisted case dates all the way back to March 21 when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force handed an online tip over to the Mesa Police Department.
Unnamed whistleblowers had information a Maricopa man uploaded more than a dozen videos of children being sexually abused to his Google account.
Mesa Police Department served Google a search warrant and watched Ketzler log in to the Google account more than 100 times. It took resources that the budding Maricopa Police Department isn’t privy to.
“We have our own digital forensic unit,” Mesa Sgt. Jamey Cox told InMaricopa. “They’re able to deal with all of our computer-based crimes, which tend to be a lot of sexual based crimes on computers.”
Executing search warrants on cell phones takes special training and technology that detectives sometimes offer smaller agencies like Maricopa, Cox said.
On July 19, the digital forensics team took their findings to police in Maricopa, according to a probable cause statement obtained by InMaricopa. Using a clever ruse, cops pinned the logins to Ketzler’s home computer in Maricopa Aug. 1.
They arrested him during a surprise visit two days later and booked him into jail on felony charges of sexually exploiting children. On Aug. 9, they lodged additional charges of exploiting a child sex doll.
Ketzler admitted to police that he viewed child pornography. He told police he found the material while searching the internet for videos of people dying, according to the probable cause statement.
After his arrest, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent conducted a forensic triage of Ketzler’s cell phone and found 20 images of children being sexually abused, According to police documents.
Ketzler faces a presumptive sentence of fines and a decade in prison. But he could spend a whopping 70 years behind bars if prosecutors prove aggravating factors, according to the Arizona criminal code.
Ketzler doesn’t have a court date scheduled yet. He has no prior convictions, public records show.
Arizona’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force did not respond to requests for comment. But law enforcement officials close to home were grateful for the help.
“Working with the AZICAC helps MPD protect vulnerable children from harm,” police spokesperson Monica Williams told InMaricopa. “We are grateful for their assistance, collaboration, and resources they offer in furthering our investigations.”