GREENSBORO, N.C. — A woman was charged Friday with indecent liberties in a child pornography investigation while she was working at a Greensboro church's day school, Homeland Security Investigations reports.
Alyson Brooke Saunders, 23, who worked at Fellowship Presbyterian Church's Fellowship Day School in Greensboro, was arrested Friday morning and charged with six counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of sex offense on a child by an adult, four counts of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of crimes against nature.
She was being held under a $1 million bond.
The photos and videos depict indecent liberties against child victims between the ages of 2 and 3, according to warrants. The abuse allegedly happened at the day care, some of it on a changing room table. The crimes against nature charge involved a dog. The details of all incidents were too graphic to report.
Saunders allegedly forwarded the images to someone in Great Britain.
Fellowship Day School operates both pre-school and after-school programs, and Saunders was terminated from the school after her arrest Friday.
Saunders' name was brought into the case when Homeland Security Investigations in London arrested a person on child pornography charges overseas and learned the suspect had communicated with Saunders over the internet.
HSI London then contacted HSI Winston-Salem in February.
Special agents reached out to Saunders, who agreed to a consensual interview and allowed agents to preview her electronic media.
In March, she admitted to exploiting and producing pornography of minor children, Homeland Security reports. Forensic analysis confirmed she produced and disseminated child pornography, according to HSI.
School officials said they had performed a background check on Saunders before hiring her, and that the background check did not show any reason for concern.
Saunders had worked at the school for over five years without any concerns or red flags being raised, prior to March 7, school officials said.
Parents of all students were informed in a general meeting March 8, school officials said. The Session (the governing body of the church) was informed March 9.
Jeffrey Weber, an attorney representing families who have children who were supervised by Saunders at Fellowship Day School, said Friday, "Those parents I represent who entrusted their children to the care of Alyson Saunders are relieved by the arrest of Ms. Saunders. The parents hope this will lead to a more open response from the school and church following her arrest. There are many questions related to Ms. Saunders and her involvement with a pornographic ring, perhaps at an international level, as well as the extent to which children entrusted to her care were exploited. "
Fellowship Day School released the following statement on Friday:
We at the Fellowship Day School are committed to full transparency with the families as we deal with the situation that first came to light on March 7, 2019. The only limits on this commitment are: 1. Protecting the privacy of the families whose children were involved; and 2. Avoiding interference with the criminal investigation. At this point, we do not have much additional information, but we want to provide this update in any event.
To the best of our knowledge, the criminal investigation by the federal Department of Homeland Security and the State Bureau of Investigation is ongoing. We do not have any new details about where that process stands. Our understanding is that investigators in matters like this tend to keep details confidential while the investigation is going on. For example, no one at the School knows any details about the photos other than what one parent (of one of the children) described at the March 8 parents’ meeting. Melissa Mitchell, the School’s Executive Director, is the only person associated with the School who knows the names of the five children, and that information is being kept in strict confidence.
As far as we know, the investigation still relates to only the same five children and the same one employee. We do not have any information or belief that any other children or any additional employees were involved.
A few people have asked whether the School is withholding information for some reason. Except for the names of the children, the answer is no. If you believe that there is information that the investigators need to know, please contact the lead investigator, Special Agent Cook.
We have been asked by many people why the employee has not been arrested. We do not know and we don’t have any more information about that question than anyone else (other than the investigators) has.
To our knowledge, Special Agent Charles Cook remains the lead investigator for this matter.
As soon as we learn additional information, we will provide another update to everyone. The only limits are the same two as always: protecting the privacy of the families and cooperating with the criminal investigators.
A few additional things;
1. This situation has been reported to Child Protective Services. We are not sure that this was required, since federal and state investigators are already involved, but we provided this notice just in case. Our notice did not provide the names of the children involved but we will provide this if requested by CPS.
2. Fellowship Presbyterian Church, which operates the Day School, has appointed a Task Force whose job is to look at the security that was already in place at the time of the incidents, consider further security measures, and act as a point of contact with the investigators and Bob King. Bob is an Elder at the Church and is an experienced attorney who has helped other organizations respond to crises. Bob is helping the Church and School understand and coordinate with the investigators. Bob is not charging for his time.
3. If you have suggestions for the Task Force, please email them to Tom **** at *****. Tom is the Chair of the Task Force.
4. As most people already know, the employee at issue is related to the Assistant Executive Director at the School. The Assistant Director is as shocked and heart-broken as everyone else at the School, plus she is dealing with the impact of this on her family. For the Assistant Director’s sake and to avoid any concerns as to appearance, she is not involved in communications with the investigators or with the Task Force.
5. The School has investigated the availability of counseling services for any parent or child who may want this. The list of Greensboro-area counselors who may be of assistance is attached.
Last, we ask for everyone’s continued prayers. The Day School is a non-profit operation that exists solely to help children and their families. Please know that Pastor Nancy Dederer is available for conversation and that our congregation continues to uphold our Day School children, families, and staff in prayer. Grace and peace,
Saunders is scheduled to be in court April 9 at 8:30 a.m.