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Jodi Heckert Pledged to Protect His Daughter’s Virginity, Now in Prison For Child Molestation

jodi heckert and daughter
Photo by David Magnusson

Jodi Heckert and his daughter appeared in a June 14, 2014, Slate Magazine article titled “Striking Portraits of Fathers and the Daughters Whose Virginity They’ve Pledged to Protect.” (While Heckert’s daughter is now an adult, I have decided to not publish her name.) The story features the photography of David Magnusson. As a photographer, I found Magnusson’s work to be stunning (and creepily disturbing), but I do wonder, based on several of his quotes in the article, if Magnusson really understands the American purity culture. For those of us who were once a part of the patriarchy movement, David Magnusson’s photographs are reminders of the many girls who are smothered by their God-fearing, hymen-worshiping “protective” fathers. Heckert, pictured above with his 13-year-old daughter, is one such father. In August of 2015, Heckert was found guilty of attempted child molestation and sentenced to ten years in prison.

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jodi heckert prison record
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Here’s what Ayperi Karabuda Ecer had to say about Magnusson’s photographs:

David Magnusson’s focus is not on the individuals, it is on the relationship. The strength, the tenderness, the domination, and all the contradictions springing from adult men seeking promises which will guide young girls’ intimate lives and their infinite need for love and protection.

Each shoot takes up to an hour. That is no longer a “moment”; it is a long time to maintain intensity. Yet some of the fathers and daughters spend the hour physically clinging to each other.

The light is what makes this project visually coherent. All photographs are organized to be shot an hour and a half before dawn. Yes, it is beautiful. Many of the fathers refer to light in their interviews. One of them quotes Psalm 40: “I was plucked from a miry pit and sat into a marvellous light”, another thinks that “as Christians we’re supposed to be the light in the world.”

David Magnusson’s lighting appeals to those who pose but its airy subtlety also adds a surreal tone which contrasts with the solid convictions of the photographed. The setting seems to be from a fairy tale but we are confused by the cast.

David Magnusson knows that what is missing in a frame is as important as what is present. As fathers and daughters intensely try to embody the presence of God, one wonders what fears and hopes lie behind their mutual determination? Who are the men that inspire such fright and such need for protection? What past scars do the fathers want to redeem? Will these girls ever be able to love anyone more than their own progenitor? How much do our own demons suggest interpretations?

Purity is a personal visual project that offers a stage for intense emotions and questions.

As with all images, these carry different meanings depending on where and by whom they will be viewed. Ideally they need to be accompanied by the interviews and a balanced introduction.

But as with so many other images they will also be encountered divorced from initial purpose and control in an unpredictable journey.

Purity is a project about contradictions, love and domination, beauty and fear, relying on the very singular complexities of the photographic process.

Please take the time to view Magnusson’s photographs, and when finished please let me know what you think in the comment section.


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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  1. Avatar
    maura hart

    bruce, i am personally grateful to you for tracking all these crimes of clergy and “evangelical ” sex criminals. i am not a believer, i am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. i had a christian counselor who said that more children are raped in public bathrooms by transgendered men than any thing else. that was the place the most risk. and he supported all these crazy bathroom laws. i said on no, fathers uncles teachers coaches trusted family friends pastors. and so when you post these i send them to him via text. he has yuet to rescind his remark and i will send them until he does. altho, actually, he did help me a lot. i just had to end it after he said that. but thank you, thank you very much

  2. Avatar

    Not much in the media about it. I was able to look up the case number S-1400-CR-201401334 (though it doesn’t tell much more information except that child molestation count and sexual contact with a minor counts were dismissed.)

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Is this case different from the one you reference? The DOC page says he was convicted, sentenced to ten years. Perhaps there were other charges? Ten years seems like a long sentence. I checked the Yuma Sun website. I found no mention of him.

      • Avatar

        Yes there were 4 charges, 2 were dismissed. Considering draconian U.S. sentencing (unless you’re a cop or have a friend that is one of the powers that be) 10 years is a rather light sentence for an underage sex crime. Considering that Jared Fogel got 15 years for having sex with prostitutes (rather than forcible sex act as is the case here.)
        Underage sex offenders are also the pariahs of the prison system. They are likely to get repeatedly attacked by self-righteous inmates for being a “baby rapist”.

  3. Avatar
    Melissa Montana

    Gee, not at all creepy that these look an awful lot like wedding photos, complete with white gowns. This is obviously more about power and control, not the happiness of the girls.

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    Purity Culture is a cultic crontrol freak ‘uniform’. It is worn for the same reason that a bully chooses/likes the idea of becoming a cop or a military man. Also why damaged men who seek little boys to diddle, enjoy being leaders in scouts. Christianity is just a tool that has evolved over time to ‘uniform’ abuse, to give it justification and status. Bikers display their status in leather patches. It is all the same kind of tribal dress.
    What is so terribly sad to me is that this young person becoming a woman has to carry the weight of her father’s crimes against her. I trust, even dare to hope that she will find good support to know in her heart and mind that she did nothing to make this happen and that she deserves basic decency and respect. Christianity strips this away while calling itself perfect love.

  5. Avatar
    maura hart

    she doesn’t just have to carry his crimes, they affect her every waking moment. her choice of a husband, how that husband treats her. how she has to co-exist with her abuser, c0-exist with her church that tells men that they are dominant over women. how she will raise her children, continuing the abuse or raising a new generation of independent women. for her it is a lifes sentence. how she will cower inside when touched, how she learns to hide that

    • Avatar

      You express what I was attempting to say… the crime and sickness go on for a lifetime. This is exactly what I meant by ‘carry’…. perhaps I should have said albatross. The point is not that the harmed individual chooses to be that way but that the harm inflicted goes on for a lifetime. There is no escape. I am intimately aware of this reality in my personal life.

  6. Avatar
    maura hart

    meantime look at the expression on that arrogant bastard’s rface. he is thinking “mine. all mine.” the reason men abuse women and children is greed not lust. they want what they want when they want it and they believe they are entitled to it . they know it’s wrong, but they do not give a care about that. it’s about them and their needs

  7. Avatar

    I find the preoccupations with a daughters hymen, and the pseudo “wedding”, disturbing and completely creepy. I look in the faces of the daughters, I don’t see happiness, I don’t see joy. Several of the fathers are holding their daughters in the way one would pose with a pregnant wife, with their hands over the child’s uterine area. It made me want to personally kick each and every of the fathers in the balls.

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      It is creepy. I get squicked out every time I see these pictures; to me they’re little more than dressed up kiddie porn. These men might as well be screaming “I have a ‘Lolita’ obsession. I lust for virgin adolescent girls, including my own daughter.” No father should be caressing or looking at his daughter like that. No photographer should be taking such pictures. These men are sick. The entire movement is sick.

      I wonder how many dark secrets there are behind these pictures. I seriously doubt Heckert is the only father in these pictures who has molested young girls. (Since there is no media coverage we don’t know if his daughter was the victim or if it was someone else, but I will go on a limb and say there is a victim, or victims. He probably wasn’t “convicted” of attempted molestation; he probably plead guilty to lesser “attempted” charges to avoid a humiliating trial and possible life sentence.)

      It reminds me of a woman I know who, long before there was a “purity” movement, was always “daddy’s girl” who went to every Father’s Day event and Daddy-Daughter Dance with her dad when she was growing up. Years later, after her dad died, she was cleaning out his house and found a huge stash of child porn with “Lolita”-type themes. It sickened her and totally ruined her image of her father. How many of these sick dads in these sick pictures have such dark secrets?

      • Avatar

        There may not be alot of media coverage if the crime happened on a military post/base. Since they are referencing Yuma, AZ, I can assume it happened at the Marine Corp and Army post/base there (desert warfare, desert testing for equipment, etc). Yes, I work for the miltary/industrial complex.

    • Avatar
      maura hart

      yes. creepy is right. if only there was a creepier word for creepy. seriously it makes me wish there were a god so i could know he would have eternal punishment. but this crap is biblical. look at lot’s daughter. so damn important to keep that gene pool going they have sex willing with there father. ick. yuck. ack. ack. repulsive and repellent. but hey that’s just another bible story!

  8. Avatar

    I went back to the Slate article and looked at the pictures. None of those girls look happy, some of the littler girls just look rather confused and wishing to be off playing somewhere. The older girls all look unhappy.

    • Avatar
      Justine Valinotti

      Autumn, I think you’re exactly right.

      As a survivor of childhood sex abuse (from a close family friend as well as a priest), I especially noticed the “confusion” you point out in the younger girls. That is part of what causes problems for those of us who survive such experiences: If we are young and know nothing about sex when we first experience abuse, it is confusing: We know that something isn’t right, but we can’t yet describe what it is. And, as often as not, our abusers coerce us into keeping their inappropriate behavior a secret.

      As for the older girls: No wonder they’re not happy!

  9. Pingback:Cognitive Dissonance: A Child Molester Goes to a Purity Ball | The Wartburg Watch 2016

  10. Avatar

    I actually hope all of y’all kill yourselves fr cause none of you really know anything about anyone all you know is what’s posted on social media or on websites.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      This brief post was about three things:

      1. Fundamentalist Christian purity culture
      2. Heckert’s creepy photos with his young, vulnerable daughter

      3. Heckert’s conviction and prison sentence

      What, if anything, did I get wrong? What justified telling me that I should kill myself; that commenters on this post should kill themselves?

    • Avatar

      So James, what’s the point of commenting as this is a ‘website’? Are you now going to kill yourself as you suggest?

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      James. You yourself are on social media right now. You’re on a website. Rather than hoping we all kill ourselves, stop for a moment a think about what you are saying. We know you hate us or you wouldn’t call for our death, But ask yourself, why the hatred?

  11. Avatar

    James doesn’t understand how many of us grew up in crazy fundy families. There are all kinds of things in my past that I KNOW about christian nutjobs… not at all based on what I’ve seen on social media. Also, what kind of a sick fuck suggests suicide because people don’t think the way he does? Probably a fundy sick fuck.

      • Avatar
        ... Zoe ~

        I actually wondered if James was related. You can see perhaps how it twists in his mind that rather than the truth be told, one would rather the truth-tellers be dead. It isn’t easy facing the truth. 🙁 It reminds me of an acquaintance who said to me they didn’t want to know.

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Bruce Gerencser