SHERMAN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Former Denison Church of the Nazarene pastor David Pettigrew, 49, was sentenced to federal prison for sexual crimes against children. Pettigrew pleaded guilty on April 7, 2021 to sexual exploitation of children; conspiracy and attempt and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant.
"David Pettigrew is a predator who used his position to exploit children for his own gratification," said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. "Parents and kids in Grayson County trusted Pettigrew as an educator, pastor, and friend, all the while unaware of his criminal intent. Working with children is nothing short of a privilege, and EDTX is committed to ensuring that those who assume responsibility for children do not violate that position of trust."
According to information presented in court, Pettigrew came to the attention of law enforcement through referrals sent by two electronic service providers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which indicated that a user had uploaded files of suspected child pornography. Investigators traced the leads to Pettigrew's home in Denison and the Denison Church of the Nazarene. Members of HSI and the Grayson County Sheriff's Office served search warrants at both locations on August 6, 2020, at which time Pettigrew was arrested for transporting child pornography.
"The deviant behavior of any individual that occupies a position or role of public trust, especially one that betrays that trust, is unforgivable and repulsive. The actions and the emotional trauma Pettigrew caused to the innocent children he preyed upon is devastating and life-altering," said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Dallas. "Protecting those most vulnerable is a top priority for HSI and we will never relent in our pursuit of characters like Pettigrew who breach their positions of trust to exploit minors."
As the investigation progressed, investigators discovered that Pettigrew and co-defendant Chad Michael Rider had set up hidden cameras in various locations in order to capture children in various stages of undress. On August 19, 2020, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Pettigrew with transportation of child pornography and both Pettigrew and Rider with conspiring to and attempting to sexually exploit children (a/k/a production of child pornography).
As part of his plea, Pettigrew admitted to conspiring with Rider to record minors, including while the minors were nude, at locations in Collin and Grayson counties. The videos were filmed using various hidden cameras, including cameras disguised as hooks, clocks, a picture frame, a smoke detector, an AC wall adapter, charging blocks, and a pen. Pettigrew further admitted that he secretly filmed a child in his home and that he and Rider filmed children undressing, bathing, and toweling off at the Denison Church of the Nazarene in Grayson County. The children were all approximately 11 to 14-years old at the time they were unknowingly recorded.
The case against Rider is ongoing and remains pending. Homeland Security Investigations and the Grayson County Sheriff's Office is investigating. Any members of the public with information about this case or possible victims are urged to contact HSI at HSIDallasVictimInfo@ice.dhs.gov. Members of the community are urged to send a detailed message (including contact information) with information about any possible private interactions with Pettigrew or Rider to the email above.
Pettigrew started working as a pastor at the church in 2006. He has three children.
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