Neil Kirchoefer, a former teacher at St. Mary’s High School, was arrested Feb. 8.
The Sleepy Eye Police Department issued the following press release the afternoon of Feb. 8, on the arrest that day of Neil Kirchoefer, a former teacher at St. Mary’s High School.
SEPD 2-8-19 Press Release —
“On 11-28-18 the Sleepy Eye Police Department was contacted by St. Mary’s School Administration. Administration was informed by a teacher that possible child pornography was viewed on one of the school’s laptop computers. Administration brought the laptop computer with them and turned it over to the Sleepy Eye Police Department for investigative purposes. The laptop computer was given to teacher Neil Kirchoefer by St. Mary’s School for school use.
“The Sleepy Eye Police Department conducted an investigation that included interviews with the teacher who saw the suspected pornographic image and Neil Kirchoefer on 11-28-18. On 11-28-18 a search warrant was completed on Neil Kirchoefer’s residence in Sleepy Eye that resulted in the seizure of a cell phone and an additional laptop computer. St. Mary’s school voluntarily turned over 2 additional electronic devices that Neil Kirchoefer used while working.
“The Sleepy Eye Police Department was assisted by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office in the analysis of the electronic devices. The Brown County Sheriff’s Investigator transported all the electronic devices to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to be analyzed by an Internet Crimes against Children expert.
“In the evening of 2-7-19 the Sleepy Eye Police Department received the computer analysis from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office through the Brown County Sheriff’s Investigator. Based on the information in the report and in consultation with the Brown County Sheriff’s Investigator and the Brown County Attorney’s Office Neil Kirchoefer was arrested and placed in the Brown County Jail the morning of 2-8-19 and charged with Possession of Pornographic Work Involving Minors, MN statute 617.247, and Use of Minors in Sexual Performance Prohibited, MN statute 617.246. St. Mary’s School has provided quality assistance and information that helped bring this case to light and assist in charges being brought against Neil Kirchoefer. St. Mary’s School Administration has kept in communication with the Sleepy Eye Police Department throughout this investigation. At this time there is no information that any juveniles from Brown County were victimized by Neil Kirchoefer. This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Sleepy Eye Police Department.”
Also included in the email correspondence from the police department was the following statement from Peter Roufs, Junior High/High School Principal, St. Mary’s Catholic School, also dated Feb. 8:
“St. Mary’s Catholic School is committed to the well-being of our students and to providing a safe and nurturing environment where young people can learn and grow. Faculty and staff work hard every day to live up to the sacred trust placed in them by parents. Unfortunately, one of our former teachers has been accused of possession of child pornography and was arrested today by Sleepy Eye police.
“Neil Kirchoefer was placed on unpaid leave immediately after the allegations surfaced in late November and was not allowed access to the school. He resigned shortly thereafter and is no longer employed by the school.
“St. Mary’s leadership was notified by a staff member about potentially inappropriate content on Kirchoefer's school computer in late November. We reported this to police immediately and then removed Kirchoefer from all teaching duties and barred him from all school functions. We have cooperated with police investigators, turning over Kirchoefer’s school computer devices for their investigation. At this time there is no information that any juveniles from Brown County were victimized. If you have additional information you believe would be helpful to police, we urge you to contact the Sleepy Eye Police department (507) 794-3711.
“I understand that news like this involving a former teacher is disturbing. I encourage parents with questions or concerns to contact me in the high school office at (507) 794-4121.”
Kirchoefer was charged in Brown County District Court with two felony counts: use minors in sexual performance/pornographic work; and eight felony counts: possession of pornographic work involving minors (two of those counts also included the phrase - dissemination prohibited.)
At a court hearing on Feb. 11, Judge Robert Docherty ordered Kirchoefer released from jail on his own recognizance, with the following conditions: contact with probation, do not leave Minnesota without written court approval, keep court/attorney informed of current address, remain law-abiding, make all future court appearances, no contact with persons under age 18, make and maintain contact with attorney, not possess/use any pornographic/sexually explicit material.
Kirchoefer is to appear in Brown County District Court on Feb. 19.
According to the criminal complaint, on 11/28/18, a staff member at St. Mary’s School told an officer with the Sleepy Eye Police Department that on 11/27, around 4 p.m., the staff member was logged into the school’s network and could see all the devices on the network, but only one that was active. It was listed as “J1” and the staff member clicked on it, logged in and controlled the screen, and saw boys approximately twelve years of age in their underwear. Their legs were spread apart and at the top it read something like, “boys boys.”
The staff member left to find that computer, went across the hall to find Kirchoefer in the room and asked him who would be on “J1.” He said something like—I do, it’s right here. When the staff member approached to see the screen it was shutting down. The staff member reported this incident immediately afterword. The school brought that computer to the Sleepy Eye police, (and later brought two more as indicated in the police department press release.)
The officer met with Kirchoefer who said that what was viewed was unintentional and that the contents are unknown until opened. He said that he has had a history of sharing pornography online and that sometimes he receives archives but [a person] doesn’t know what’s in it until opened. Kirchoefer said that he had no intentions of viewing anything illegal.
The complaint contained the report from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigator on the forensic examination of the hard drives of the three school devices, a computer from Kirchoefer’s home and his iPhone 6. The investigator reported location of 1,452 images containing child pornography or belonging to a series of child pornography; and 18 movie files that contained child pornography or belonging to a series of child pornography. The investigator observed chat logs on Microsoft Skype that appeared to be sharing links to child pornography. The chat was between a Skype user and Kirchoefer. A total of 65 Skype chat messages were recovered. The investigator said Kirchoefer would send these links containing child pornography to other individuals.