DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa man will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for sexually abusing a girl for six years, beginning when she was an infant.
Steven Douglas Crook Jr., 28, of Bloomfield, also took photos and video of the abuse, sometimes livestreaming the rape on the social media app Live.me, federal authorities said.
“In doing so, he encouraged his followers on Live.me to watch him rape the little girl live on the internet,” said a news release from U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum, who represents the southern district of Iowa.
U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose sentenced Crook to 120 years, the maximum sentence allowed for the four counts of sexual exploitation of a child Crook pleaded guilty to.
Rose described Crook’s crimes as “horrific,” noting that the defendant controlled the victim and hid the crimes for years. She called his actions, “insidious, thoughtful and manipulative,” and said the effective life sentence was warranted because Crook posed such a danger to children in the community, Krickbaum said.
Krickbaum said the abuse inflicted by Crook went undetected for years because family members failed to report it to police. The victim was a family member, but her relationship to Crook is being withheld to protect her identity.
According to federal court records, Crook’s crimes came to light on Feb. 28, 2018, when a concerned citizen reported a URL, or internet address, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The link showed a man having anal sex with a young girl.
The data associated with the video showed it was recorded 11 days before it was discovered. In the footage, Crook is seen having sex with the girl and making explicit sexual comments to her.
“The girl’s face is visible at the end of the video,” an agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety wrote in an affidavit. “As described below, I later uncovered evidence showing that the man in the video is Crook and the girl is his (6-year-old relative).”
Investigators discovered that the video had been streamed on Live.me, the affidavit said.
“Live.me is a live streaming video app that allows people to share what they are doing, shares their location and allows others to search for people streaming near them,” Special Agent Chris Thomas wrote. “The app reportedly describes itself online as ‘the best social platform for creating and viewing live videos.’”
Using the user number of the person who uploaded the video, investigators traced the IP, or internet protocol, address to the Bloomfield home Crook shared with his wife and three young children.
Armed with a search warrant, investigators from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the FBI, the Bloomfield Police Department and the Davis County Sheriff’s Office went to Crook’s home on March 9, 2018. There, they encountered the entire family, including the Crooks’ children.
The victim, who lived in the home, was also present when agents arrived, the affidavit said.
“I personally observed the 6-year-old girl, who appears to be the same girl depicted in the video described above,” Thomas wrote. “I also personally observed a bedroom in the house, which appears to be the bedroom in which the video described above was filmed.”
Agents seized several electronic devices from the home, on which they found videos of Crook having sex with the girl, as well as other videos of child pornography, the affidavit said. One such video, found on a storage card, involved Crook’s victim and was 10 minutes long.
The video was saved to the card three days before the search warrant was executed, Thomas said.
It was found in a folder titled, “Daddy’s Love,” the affidavit said. Additional videos were found on a card containing folders titled, “Child Porn” and “Child Porn and Baby Rape.”
“According to the forensic examiner, some of the videos described above were deleted, but were still able to be recovered from the devices,” Thomas wrote.
Thomas wrote that Crook agreed to speak to him as the search of the house was ongoing. Though hesitant at first, he eventually admitted to having sex with the girl.
He claimed the abuse had begun just before Christmas 2017 and lasted about three months. He said he estimated he had sex with the girl fewer than 100 times.
It was not clear if any of the other children in the home were victimized. Despite Crook’s statements that the abuse lasted about three months, prosecutors alleged that it had been ongoing for years.
“The evidence showed that Crook sexually abused (the) little girl, sometimes violently, from the time she was an infant, until law enforcement rescued the girl from Crook’s home in March 2018, when she was 6 years old,” Krickbaum’s news release stated.
Crook told Thomas his wife had seen one of the videos, which he later deleted, the affidavit said. It was not immediately clear when Crook’s wife supposedly saw the video or if she faced any repercussions for not reporting what she saw.
Crook was arrested on 25 counts of exploitation of a child, one count each of possession and receipt of child pornography and one count of making false statements, KTVO in Kirksville, Missouri reported at the time of his arrest. Kirksville is about 50 miles south of Bloomfield.
U.S. Marshals took custody of Crook in April 2018 after the federal charges were filed against him, the news station said. The state charges against him were dropped in favor of the federal case.
Investigators also learned through the National Crime Information Center that Crook had a 2007 arrest when he was a juvenile for indecency with a child/egregious sexual assault of a child. The disposition of those charges was not known, according to the affidavit.
“Any time a child is abused in Iowa, if we have photographs or videos of the abuse, the defendant can be prosecuted in federal court, and face decades, if not life, behind bars,” Krickbaum said. “Steven Crook will spend the rest of his life in federal prison, where he belongs. We want to make sure that other defendants like him, who are a threat to our children, face the stiffest penalties federal law allows.”
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