SPOKANE. Wash. - Many of the child pornography cases Detective Kevin Richey works on at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office's Special Assault Unit take time. These are cases that often begin with an tip from the FBI that someone has received or viewed sexually graphic content and require detectives to work backward to find the sender.
Jessica Cunnington's case is a little different.
Cunnington, 27, made her first appearance in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday for charges of first-degree child rape and child molestation as well as sexual exploitation of a minor.
Court documents say she performed oral sex on a 3-year-old girl who is a member of her family and then sent photos and videos to men online.
It was a tip that alerted the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to Cunnington- but not one from a website or from the FBI. Richey learned about this case from Jessica Cunnington's friend.
Even that tip came about in an unusual way. Cunnington told her friend that she had received an email from Google saying she was under FBI investigation for child pornography, according to a search warrant. Richey said websites or social media pages will often do this though law enforcement sometimes asks them not to because it could hurt an ongoing investigation.
In this investigation it helped.
"What was kind of a mistake is actually what made this thing go faster so it kind of worked out better in this circumstance," he said.
He reached out to the local FBI office, which was unaware of any investigation involving Cunnington. He learned later that, in Los Angeles, the FBI and the LAPD were investigating a man who had received the sexual content allegedly sent by Cunnington and had communicated with her.
Documents say a search of that man's phone and the online accounts used by Cunnington allowed detectives to arrest her on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Richey's investigation took another step forward following an interview with Cunnington's estranged husband. The two are in the process of divorcing.
He said that in late November, his wife showed him the Google email and said she was in trouble because someone had sent her child pornography. According to a search warrant she changed her story in December, first telling him that she had taken sexual photos with a 3-year-old girl and later telling him that she had performed oral sex and used a sex toy on the toddler.
When asked why he did not report Cunnington, the man told Richey that he didn't think what Cunnington described was 'rape' and that she told him she wanted one more Christmas to spend with her family before turning herself in.
He is not charged with any crime stemming from this incident. Richey said the man has cooperated fully with his search and there is no evidence to suggest he was criminally involved.
Jessica Cunnington's bond was set at $100,000 in court Wednesday.
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