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Black Collar Crime: ELCA Pastor Steven Tibbetts Sentenced to Seven Years In Prison for Distributing Child Pornography

steven tibbetts

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Steven Tibbetts, pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey, Illinois, was accused of distributing child pornography.

KMOV-4 reported at the time:

Steven P. Tibbetts, 61, served as the head pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey.


Prosecutors say the investigation of Tibbetts began in August 2019 when the blogging and social network site, Tumblr, provided a cyber tip line report about one of its user accounts to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The account was searched by law enforcement and allegedly found to contain images and videos of nude minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

According to the complaint, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also received a tip from Twitter in February 2020 that one of its users had uploaded two images of suspected child pornography.

Investigators were allegedly able to trace the Tumblr and Twitter accounts back to Tibbetts’ home, where a federal search warrant was executed on June 18. A search of Tibbetts’ computer allegedly revealed the presence of additional child pornography images and videos. Agents then arrested Tibbetts at his home.

Last week, Tibbetts was convicted on child pornography charges and sentenced to eighty-seven months in prison.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports:

Stephen P. Tibbetts was ordered to serve seven years and three months in a federal prison and pay $10,000 in restitution to victims who were depicted in some of the videos and photographs. Court documents and evidence obtained by federal agents, and Macoupin County sheriff’s deputies, showed Tibbetts began viewing and distributing child pornography starting in the 1990s and continued until his arrest in June 2020, a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice said.

While Tibbetts was on pre-trial release for the offenses he was charged for, an officer located additional devices in his home, which were found to contain child pornography. In all, Tibbetts possessed 2,430 images and 408 videos containing child pornography, according to the court.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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