(09/05/2018)
WCHS-TV - Five people in Braxton County are facing charges after a lengthy state police investigation into child pornography and the alleged molestation of children.

The investigation started in July when troopers were contacted about the possible sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 10.

On July 2nd, a trooper in Braxton County received two thumb drives from Jonathan "J.D." Whitesel in connection with the investigation, according to a criminal complaint filed in Braxton County Magistrate Court.

After reviewing the videos on the storage devices, troopers say they observed Zachary Bailey, 27, of Gassaway, involved in sexually explicit acts with the young girl. They say he was recording the video and possibly distributing it as well. In an interview with troopers, Bailey allegedly admitted to the sexual acts with the child, as well as recording two other young girls performing sexual acts on each other.

On July 7th, Bailey was charged with five counts of attempting sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, five counts of first degree sexual assault and five counts of use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct. He is currently lodged in the South Central Regional Jail on a $100,000 bond.

On September 2nd, four members of a family were arrested in connection with the same investigation, including three members of the Gassaway Volunteer Fire Department.

Jonathan "J.D." Whitesel, 37, of Gassaway is charged with 30 counts of distribution and exhibiting of material depicting minors and conspiracy. He is being held on a $50,000 cash only bond. Joshua Whitesel, 32, of Gassaway is charged with 30 counts of distribution and exhibiting of material depicting minors, conspiracy, child neglect creating risk of injury and two counts of the use of minors in filming sexual explicit conduct. He is being held on a $65,000 cash only bond.

Kimberly "Dawn" Whitesel, 47, of Gassaway is charged with 30 counts of distribution and exhibiting of material depicting minors and conspiracy. She is being held on a $50,000 cash only bond.

Jessica Whitesel, 30, of Gassaway is charged with child neglect creating risk of injury and conspiracy. Her bond is set at $50,000 cash only.

A man who answered the phone at the Gassaway Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, who identified himself at the assistant chief but did not wish to give his name, said Jonathan "J.D." Whitesel, his brother Joshua Whitesel and and Jonathan's wife, Kimberly "Dawn" Whitesel were all suspended Monday night pending the outcome of any criminal investigation.

During the recordings that troopers reviewed from the thumb drives, they say Bailey could be heard having conversations with another man inside the home. Bailey told troopers that Joshua Whitesel had him make the videos for him. Bailey also claimed that all of the videos that were made were given directly to Joshua Whitesel upon completion.

Bailey told troopers that Joshua Whitesel would sometimes take items to his mother's home on Elk Street in Gassaway. Bailey said there were gun safes there where he could secure them and "no one would expect them to be," according to the criminal complaint. Bailey told troopers that he did not know what Joshua Whitesel did with the videos but "assumed he used them to make money," according to court documents.

Troopers say during their interview with Joshua Whitesel, he claimed Bailey stole from him, lied to him and said he did not trust him but continued to allow him to live in his house without paying rent or any bills for 16 months. Troopers say he told them that he "felt like he failed as a father." He went on to say he would let Bailey watch his kids when he worked or went on calls with the fire department.

Troopers say Joshua Whitesel identified himself as the man that could be heard having conversations with Bailey in the videos. During an interview with troopers, Jessica Whitesel said she "failed her kids at this point in her life," according to a criminal complaint. Jessica Whitesel said she knew of a second thumb drive that Jonathan "J.D." Whitesel and Kimberly Whitesel had that was attached to a white lanyard that Jonathan "J.D." Whitesel wore around his neck that had two videos that were given to troopers.

Kimberly Whitesel allegedly admitted during an interview that she and her husband transferred two videos onto a thumb drive.

According to state police, Jonathan "J.D" Whitesel said he transferred the videos onto his personal thumb drive on his Homeland Security computer at work, along with his wife.

All five suspects are being held in the Central Regional Jail. MORE TO EXPLORE


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