Ashlee Cheatham was taken into custody on Tuesday evening and charged with a spate of felonies, including one count of sexual abuse of a child under age 12 and one count of making or distributing types of obscene material or child pornography, authorities announced.
Cheatham is also facing one count each of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, and felony violation of Oklahoma’s Computer Crimes Act.
According to a press release from the Stillwater Police Department, a man went to a police department lobby and asked to speak with a police officer at about 10:11 a.m. on Tuesday.
“We had him very visibly upset and storming into our department lobby,” Luitenant TJ Low of the Stillwater Police Department reportedly told The Kansas City Star.
The man, described in the release as a “very distraught parent,” told the responding officer that he had recently met a woman from the Oklahoma City area online, identified in the release as Cheatham. He and Cheatham developed a relationship and began dating, and she eventually “became his girlfriend,” moving in with him and his 3-year-old daughter.
It was unclear how long the two were dating, but at some point in the relationship, the father began to suspect that Cheatham was up to something untoward and decided to look into it.
The previous evening, while Cheatham was sleeping, the father scrolled through her cellphone and found what police “disturbing images and videos of his 3-year-old daughter,” police wrote in the release.
Police did not clarify exactly what the images or videos on Cheatham’s phone allegedly depicted, nor did they say how many files were allegedly discovered.
“A lot of us are parents, the police officers here, and members of the community as well. If you had that little sinking feeling, obviously, you know, trust your gut. Do a thorough background check on everybody that’s going to watch your kids,” Lt. Low told Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO-TV.
Police-worn body camera video obtained by KOCO shows several officers taking a scantily clad Cheatham into custody at the couple’s shared apartment. The handcuffed woman can be seen crying as officers led her out of the apartment.
“It was all very disturbing, that’s why we made the arrest that day,” Lt. Low reportedly said.
Cheatham had reportedly applied for a job as a paraprofessional at Nicoma Park Elementary School and was “in the process of being hired” before her arrest. In a statement to KOCO, a spokesperson for the district said they made a “mutual decision to terminate the hiring process.”
“The suspect never worked for the district, never received a paycheck, and has never been with any of our students,” the statement said, KOCO reported.
Cheatham was in custody at the Payne County Jail as of Saturday morning, records show. A judge also issued a protective order prohibiting her from contacting the alleged victim.
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