By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Wamsutter man will serve the next 74 to 100 years in prison for creating child pornography, in some cases filming the abuse of his own grandchildren, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
Russell Jay Byrne, 49, was sentenced Monday in state district court in Sweetwater County after pleading guilty to 58 criminal charges, which include the possession, manufacturing and distribution of child pornography, as well as the sexual abuse of three minor children ages 2, 3 and 8.
Charges against Byrne were the result of a joint investigation by the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce. The investigation began almost two years ago after a sheriff’s deputy and DCI special agents assigned to the Rock Springs regional office of the DCI received tips about Byrne’s alleged activity.
Investigators learned that Byrne was using a number of social media platforms to access and distribute child pornography.
Through the course of the investigation, officers discovered Byrne was sexually abusing three of his grandchildren, recording the assaults and distributing some of those recordings as part of his growing collection of child pornography.
During an undercover operation in November 2021, task force members lured Byrne to a location where he was detained without incident.
Investigators then served multiple search warrants to secure a large amount of electronic and forensic evidence crucial to the investigation before also shutting down Byrne’s child pornography operation.
“It’s sad that this kind of thing is something that we face in this day and age, but that’s why adding one of our own detectives as a dedicated member of this important regional task force was a priority for me and our team so that we can better serve the community and protect our children from predators who choose to exploit the relative anonymity of modern technology in order to hurt innocent people in this disgusting way,” Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle said.