A federal judge sentenced a 32-year-old Casper man to 170 years in prison Thursday for possessing and producing child pornography.
Salvador Salas Jr. was a family friend to a 13-year-old girl whom he said he would mentor, but instead sent home apparently high on methamphetamine after sexually abusing her, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming.
A jury convicted Salas on Jan. 25 following a three-day trial.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Scott W. Skavdahl this week imposed the 170-year sentence and ordered Salas to pay $132,056 in restitution to cover the child’s care in treatment, as well as $600 in special assessments.
“The evidence in this case demonstrated that Salas is a sexual predator — someone who manipulated people that trusted him,” said U.S. Attorney for Wyoming Nicholas Vassallo. “He used his relationship with the minor victim’s mother to gain access to the child. Once he had that access, he supplied the child with drugs, making her even more vulnerable to his sexual abuse.
“This kind of trauma devastates the victims, the families and the communities in which it occurs.”
Vassallo said the long sentence is punishment, but he also hopes it will help the victim toward healing.
To Teach Her Design
Salas is a graphic artist clothing designer and DJ, according to the statement, who offered to mentor the child and teach her clothing and shoe design.
But in the early morning hours of Feb. 28, 2021, the child came home looking drug-intoxicated, behaving strangely and shaking.
Her mother took her to the emergency room, where personnel found burns on her lips consistent with a methamphetamine pipe.
She tested positive for meth.
The mother had the child admitted to the Wyoming Behavior Institute, a mental health facility, and told police her daughter had been at Salas’ home and came home high.
The Casper Police Department executed a search warrant at Salas’ home seeking evidence of drugs. They found meth, meth paraphernalia, cocaine and buprenorphine, the statement says.
While they were there they developed probable cause to believe Salas had talking sexually explicit photos of the child, the statement says.
They executed another search warrant for his electronic devices that day.
The Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force found child pornography that had been downloaded from the internet featuring “graphic” sexual abuse of prepubescent children. They also found five videos and 47 photographs of the 13-year-old girl who’d been in Salas’ home, says the statement.
There’s an audio accompanying the videos in which Salas can be heard talking to the victim, remarking that she’s just 13 years old.
These materials were filmed in Salas’ home.
Authorities followed up and tested the girl’s clothing, finding Salas’ DNA in the semen in her underwear.
Salas admitted to police that he had sex acts with the child and recorded the acts using his iPhone, the statement says.
“Those who exploit children will always be a focus of FBI resources,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek, adding that law enforcement partners like the Casper Police Department help the FBI to find people who victimize children and to prevent future abuse.
“While this man will no longer be able to harm children, we know his victim will continue to need support,” said Michalek. “The significant sentence and restitution in this case recognizes the lasting impact on the survivor of this horrific crime and provides for appropriate care and treatment.”
Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Casper Police Department investigated this crime, the statement says.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christyne Martens and Stephanie Sprecher prosecuted the case.
Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse, brought the case. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims, the statement says, adding that more information about the project is at www.justice.gov/psc.
Clair McFarland can be reached at: Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com