NASHUA N.H. (WBZ NewsRadio) — During a search warrant at the Bible Baptist Church in Nashua Tuesday morning, police arrested 46-year-old Pastor Stephen Bates for Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Images, Class A Felony.
An investigation into the Bible Baptist Church started back in 2016, after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent the Nashua Police Department a tip that indicated that an IP address associated with the church had accessed child pornography, officials said in a statement to WBZ NewsRadio.
In 2019, Homeland Security Investigations in Denver, Colorado launched an exploitation investigation that targeted individuals producing and distributing child pornography, and found that an IP address from the church had been sent child pornography by a suspect officials were investigating, the NPD said.
Police said a year later in 2020, the Tallahassee, Florida Police Department had an investigation into the publishing of child pornography online, and similar to other investigations, an IP address associated with the church had pinged as publishing images on social media.
In 2021, Homeland Security Investigations in Blaine, Washington launched an investigation into the sexual exploitation of a child, and the suspect involved in that case had communicated with an IP address associated with the Bible Baptist Church, officials said.
Pastor Bates was contacted several times by investigators from the NPD and HSI, who said that he was considered a person of interest during earlier investigations, but was not criminally charged because there was not enough evidence at the time.
Tuesday, the search warrant conducted by the NPD's Special Investigations Division, HSI, N.H. Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office uncovered two flash drives that contained numerous images of child pornography, officials said. Police said they arrested Bates and charged him with Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Images, Class A Felony, though officials believe more charges will be pressed as the investigation continues.
According to police, A Class Felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in State Prison, apart from fines. The bail for Bates was set at $3,000 cash, officials said.