MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Seven people are behind bars in Maury County and charged in connection with a disturbing sexploitation ring involving children.
Investigators are still looking into the group that allegedly traded graphic images that possibly involve juveniles from Middle Tennessee.
The Maury County Sheriff’s Office, working with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, recently arrested seven people as part of the alleged sexploitation ring.
Investigators identified the group after disturbing images of child sex acts showed up on social media sites and cell phone video.
According to arrest affidavits, members of the gang were reportedly exchanging lewd pictures of children engaged in sex.
Verna Wyatt, Co-Founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, says this is sadly more common than people know.
“Child sex crimes murder the soul. It’s sickening, but part of a mindset, and once you get into that kind of deviant behavior, it is almost normal to them.”
According to arrest documents, Clinton Shawn Gransden and Michelle Klen were the alleged ring leaders. Investigators identified the 40-year-old Gransden after he reportedly had sex with a child, imagery captured on the cell phones of Jesse Smith, Connie Copley, and Angel Morales Depasquale.
“You know, statistically 1/4 girls and 1/7 boys will be a victim of sex abuse by the time they are age 18 so there’s an epidemic in our country.”
According to affidavits, on Christopher Sayre’s phone, agents reportedly found a video of children engaged in sex who were identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Wyatt says news of the arrest is deeply troubling.
“I was infuriated and disgusted, but unfortunately, I know that this happens all across the country, not just in Tennessee.”
And then there’s Julie May Johnson. According to agents, the 39-year-old exchanged pornographic images of children with the group; images that included a video showing Michelle Klen having sex with a child.
And according to investigators, Julie May Johnson requested pictures of children having sex with animals from other members of the group.
Wyatt says the children have a long road to recovery.
“They will never heal from that, they can recover, but that is something they will never fully heal from.”
The members of the ring are charged with a variety of crimes including aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The majority of the group is behind bars on bonds of $150,000.
If you have any further information, you are urged to contact the Maury County Sheriff’s Office.