Cody Ashton Ary, 29, West First Street, is being held in the Greene County Jail without bail, awaiting transfer to a federal facility on a charge of producing child pornography.
Ary was arrested Wednesday at his home following a search warrant conducted by West Plains Police Detective Joe Neuschwander and other members of the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.
The arrest marked the conclusion of an investigation that began in October, when an FBI task force officer was informed by someone Ary had been communicating with via Grindr and Snapchat that Ary said he had collected child pornography and was trying to stop, eventually providing a password and asking the other man to delete the contents of a Snapchat account.
Grindr is a dating app often used by gay men, and Snapchat is a multimedia social platform in which photos and messages sent between users disappear upon being read.
Ary had been promoted in April from a middle school special education paraprofessional to a high school special education teacher. At one time Ary was a site director at the Boys & Girls Club of West Plains.
According to West Plains R-7 spokeswoman Lana Snodgras, Ary's arrest is unrelated to a report of potential misconduct by an R-7 employee in February, in response to which Superintendent Dr. Lori Wilson issued a statement that district officials had been notified by law enforcement and the person was no longer employed with the district.
In a statement issued to the media regarding Ary’s arrest, Snodgras said, “District officials received notification from law enforcement authorities on May 20, 2020, regarding an employee’s misconduct, which occurred outside of the district and did not involve any students.
"Our first priority is the safety of our students, and the district strives to keep students, parents and our community informed within the confines of the law. The district is unable to release confidential information pertaining to personnel.
"Any ongoing investigation is being handled by the proper legal authorities, and any additional questions regarding the specific incident in question should be directed to law enforcement officials.”
The law enforcement investigation reportedly led to the discovery that Ary had solicited sexually explicit pictures of underage teen boys by posing as an underage teen on an Instagram profile, according to Neuschwander. The official complaint lodged by Neuschwander as a result of the investigation included sexual exploitation of a minor, related to the enticement or persuasion of a minor to engage in sexually explicit behavior for the purpose of producing child pornography.
Ary allegedly had saved files on his cell phone that depicted underage boys engaged in sexually explicit acts, one appearing to be as young as 8 to 10 years old.
Evidence reportedly included conversations viewed by the FBI task force officer involving someone on an account connected to an IP address subscribed to by Ary. An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is a numeric designation that identifies its location on the internet. The conversations attributed to Ary's address reportedly showed requests from Ary for sexually explicit photos from minors, plus instructions to others on how to join a group labeled “boys 12-17.”
In his report to federal prosecutors, Neuschwander stated that Ary admitted he had posed as a “13- or 14-year-old” male on an Instagram account and used a photo he had downloaded off of the internet as his profile picture, seeking out underage boys with user names that suggested they were homosexual.
Ary also allegedly admitted to asking for videos or images of them taking their clothes off in exchange for internet links to folders that contained child pornography, primarily minor males engaged in explicit acts.This story has been updated to include Ary's current status in custody and a statement from the West Plains R-7 School District.