“This lengthy sentence is a testament to the repugnant nature of child exploitation crimes”
South Texas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Child Exploitation
A South Texas man was sentenced to life in prison for production of child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor, following an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Task Force.
Reid Etheridge, 42, was sentenced July 22 to life in prison. A second defendant, Alicia Cronkhite, 30, from Edinburg, was sentenced to 189 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by a lifetime of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional facts discussing the abuse both minor victims sustained at Etheridge and Cronkhite’s hands. In handing down the sentence, the judge considered and heavily weighed the chances that Etheridge would re-offend in the future should he be released from federal prison. The judge also considered that Etheridge manipulated Cronkhite into participating in their criminal conduct.
“This lengthy sentence is a testament to the repugnant nature of child exploitation crimes, particularly the production of child pornography which only perpetuates the trauma endured by victims,” said Alejandro Amaro, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “HSI agents make it a top priority to protect vulnerable children from victimization by working with their law enforcement partners to investigate predators involved with the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material and ensure they are held accountable for their heinous actions.”
According to court documents, Etheridge had filmed himself committing the sexual abuse and assault of two minor children from on or about Jan. 1, 2020, to approximately Oct. 1, 2020. As part of her guilty plea, Cronkhite admitted she took photographs of one minor victim’s exposed genitals and transmitted those photographs to Etheridge at his request.
The investigation began when authorities identified an IP address in McAllen that had uploaded images and videos depicting minor children engaged in sex acts. On Oct. 2, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant and encountered Etheridge at the residence. He soon admitted he had filmed himself sexually assaulting one minor victim. Further investigation revealed communication between Etheridge and Cronkhite detailing the sexual exploitation of another minor victim. HSI searched her residence, at which time she admitted she produced multiple images of a minor victim and transmitted the images to Etheridge.
Etheridge and Cronkhite will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mitchell, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.