A 41-year-old McAllen resident and a 28-year-old Edinburg resident pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment alleging they sexually exploited young girls and then produced child pornography of the alleged attacks that were uploaded to the internet.
A federal grand jury indicted Reid Etheridge, a former South Texas College professor, and Alicia Cronkhite on Oct. 20 after the pair was arrested earlier that month.
Etheridge is charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of children, a count of coercion or enticement of female and a count of sexual exploitation of minors while Cronkhite is charged with a count of sexual exploitation of children, coercion or enticement of female and sexual exploitation of minors.
Etheridge waived arraignment on Wednesday and entered his plea while Cronkhite waived arraignment and entered her plea on Tuesday, records show.
The Homeland Security Investigations-led Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Investigation Task Force arrested Etheridge on Oct. 2 and Cronkhite on Oct. 7.
They are both being held in prison without bond and face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Federal agents nabbed Etheridge after a Google referral to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, concerning child exploitation material being uploaded to accounts later linked to the former professor, according to the complaint.
The NCMEC reported approximately 323 videos and images depicting young children in sexually explicit conduct.
After searching Etheridge’s phone, federal agents arrested Cronkhite when they linked text messages discussing sexual exploitation of a child and child pornography, according to the complaints.
The charging documents contain excerpts of those text messages, which are too disturbing to publish.
They are also accused of sexually abusing a young girl that Cronkhite had access to and producing child pornography from those alleged assaults.
“According to the charges, Etheridge had encouraged Cronkhite to produce child pornography of another minor victim. Cronkhite then allegedly took photographs of herself abusing a minor victim and texted the photographs to Etheridge,” a news release states.
Etheridge is also accused of abusing another young girl and producing child pornography of those alleged attacks, according to federal authorities.