The arrest this week of a former Myrtle Creek police chief on child pornography charges capped an online investigation by a state task force, according to court records.
Leland Dale Benson, 67, of Rice Hill was released without bail from the Douglas County Jail on Wednesday after being arraigned on five counts of first-degree encouraging child sex abuse and five counts of second-degree encouraging child sex abuse.
Benson, a former Myrtle Creek police chief, was arrested at his home Tuesday after investigators served a search warrant at his residence in the 200 block of Oakwood Drive.
Investigators found at least five images of children being sexually abused or engaging in sexually explicit conduct, according to a statement filed in Douglas County Circuit Court by the Oregon Department of Justice.
The Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force initiated the investigation in August. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office assisted with serving the search warrant.
In the court document, Special Agent Page McBeth wrote that he began conducting an investigation into shared digital files of child pornography in August.
He found three partial files, which depicted children being sexually abused, from a computer address registered to Lee Benson in the 200 block of Oakwood Drive.
On Tuesday, Benson made self-incriminating comments to investigators about downloading child pornography, McBeth wrote.
Efforts to reach a Department of Justice spokesman for further comment were unsuccessful.
Benson was held on $750,000 bail before appearing before Judge Julie Zuver, who agreed to release Benson without bail.
Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Johnson said she argued for Benson to be held on bail. As a courtesy, she represented the Oregon Attorney General’s Office, which will prosecute the case, at Benson’s initial court appearance.
Efforts to reach Benson’s defense attorney, Andrew Johnson, were not successful.
Benson was the Myrtle Creek police chief for five months in 2000. At the time, he said if he continued working he risked losing pension benefits.
He had previously been a contract employee with the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team to develop an anti-drug team. He also worked as a crime prevention specialist for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, according to a 2000 profile in The News-Review.
Benson entered law enforcement as a 20-year-old police cadet in California and in 1970 joined the Coos Bay Police Department, where he worked for 25 years before retiring for the first time. His assignments included directing the Coos and Curry counties Interagency Narcotic Team for three years.
Benson moved to Rice Hill in 1996 and was recruited to help reorganize the Sutherlin Police Department, according to the 2000 profile. He retired again in 1997.
After working with the sheriff’s office, he became executive director of the American Cancer Society office in Roseburg before the office closed.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or email@example.com.