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Hot Springs school janitor faces 100 counts involving child porn

Paul Merritt Jr., 30 of Hot Springs, is charged with 100 felony counts of distributing, possessing and viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, after FBI agents and HSPD raided his home last Friday. (Photo: KATV)

A custodian employed by the Hot Springs School District is now behind bars, facing felony 100 counts of distributing, possessing and viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child.

According to Hot Springs Police, Paul Merritt Jr., 30, was arrested on Friday at his Hot Springs apartment. Agents with the FBI, aided by Hot Springs Police officers, served a search warrant of Merritt's home and discovered multiple electronic devices that contained more than 100 images depicting sexually explicit conduct involving juveniles.

"He admitted to officers that they were his images on his devices," said Officer Joey Williams, public information officer for HSPD. "He was also using Facebook to disseminate the images."

During conversations with Hot Springs detectives, Merritt said he had sought, received and shared numerous images of juveniles on Facebook, according to a probable cause affidavit. Merritt also professed his reasoning for possessing the images.

"According to the affidavit, when he spoke with our detectives he admitted that he was sexually attracted to children - females - ten-years-old and up," said Officer Williams.

Hot Springs School District officials don't believe the images were of students in the district, saying in a statement that they don't believe Merritt had any contact with students due to the fact he was a night custodian.

HSSD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Nehus said in a statement: "My understanding from the district’s resource officer is that Mr. Merritt is presently in jail. When he gets out of jail, he will be on administrative leave, pending a complete investigation and the application of his statutory rights. Nothing is more important than the safety of the students in this district."

Authorities say they aren't aware of any prior criminal charges against Merritt. KATV was only able to find that Merritt had several minor traffic violations, including not wearing a seatbelt.

There is now a no-contact order preventing Merritt from being around any children. Merritt is due back in Garland County District Court on September 12.

This is the second child pornography arrest for HSPD in roughly a week. The Friday before Merritt's arrest, Hot Springs Police officers took Kenneth Roy Coates, 48 of Malvern, into custody on 45 counts of possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child. Investigators had discovered child porn on Coates' business phone.

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