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Shock and surprise follow child porn arrest

By Bonney Bowman 7:16 PM April 17, 2014
ANCHORAGE –

Former students expressed shock and surprise when one of their professors was arrested this week for having and distributing child pornography.

Dr. Curtis Osterhoudt taught physics and astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage before resigning in January.

Students and colleagues described him at very intelligent and engaged with his subject matter.

Since his resignation, Osterhoudt’s office and lab have been packed up, but those still on campus are struggling to come to terms with the man they knew and the charges he now faces.

“It was quite a shock and it’s kind of hard to figure out how to process it,” said former student Talia Sopp.

She says she’s trying not to form any judgment about Osterhoudt until all the facts in his case come out.

“He was one of the best professors I’ve ever had,” Sopp said. “He’s super dedicated to his students and really was just an inspiration to me.”

The charging documents paint a very different picture of the former professor.

The images he’s charged with trafficking indicate the victims are as young as seven and eight years old.

“It usually does surprise the peer groups and the communities that these suspects live in, that these people would have been trafficking in it,” said Lt. Rex Leath, deputy commander of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force actively hunt traffickers.

That’s what led them to Osterhoudt on Dec. 19, 2013.

“We went to a location on the UAA campus in support with the University of Alaska Anchorage police and the Anchorage Police Department and we were able to identify someone there and computers that were being used to traffic in child pornography,” Leath said.

In the months since, investigators have been building the case against Osterhoudt, examining his home and office computers for child porn.

He now faces 14 felony charges for possession and distribution.

Unfortunately, prosecutors say, these kinds of crimes are increasing as internet access grows.

“You can look at one case as a victory or not a victory and again I’m not speaking to Mr. Osterhoudt’s case, but another way of looking at is as just a drop in the bucket because we are seeing a significant number of these types of offenses,” said Adam Alexander, assistant attorney general in the Office of Special Prosecutions.

“To the victim that’s being victimized, it’s not a drop in the bucket. It’s a life-changing event,” Leath said. “So every case that we can successfully prosecute and hold someone accountable for victimizing a child, we change someone’s life.”

Investigators say their work doesn’t end with an arrest. They also try to identify the children in the pornography to make sure they’re no longer being victimized.

Osterhoudt is being held at the Anchorage jail on $100,000 bail. His next court date is scheduled for June 3.

 

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