Howard Co. teacher charged with child porn

Howard County police have charged a long-term substitute teacher in Howard County with possession of child pornography (Provided by Howard County police / January 10, 2014)

Howard County police say a former substitute teacher at a Columbia middle school used yearbook photos of students to digitally replace the facial images of children in pornography.

Police said Friday that through an examination of computers used by Jeremy Sykes, 43, a former long-term substitute who worked at Folly Quarter Middle School, investigators identified 18 teenage girls in altered images, 14 of them Folly Quarter students. The other four were people Sykes knew outside of school, police said.

In all, police found 50 digitally altered pornographic images believed to have been created by Sykes using the girls' yearbook photos.

Sykes was initially charged in January after police received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that uploads of child pornography had been traced to the same user on two computers. Pornographic images were subsequently found on a computer at Sykes’ Columbia home, and a computer at the middle school.

After his arrest in January, school officials banned Sykes from entering any Howard County Public School property.

Police said they’ve contacted parents of the students whose images were used in the photos, and said investigators have no evidence any of the altered photos were distributed beyond Sykes' personal access.

Sykes is facing 14 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and 50 counts of production of child pornography. Online records indicate Sykes posted $50,000 bond and was released. After the January arrest, he had also posted $20,000 bond and was released, police said.

School spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove said in a statement Friday that the school system is “working cooperatively” with police in the ongoing investigation, and that “school counselors and psychologists are available to provide support to students who are impacted by this news.”

She said “student safety and security remain our highest priorities.”

Police said computer forensic detectives are analyzing additional electronic devices seized from Sykes to determine if any other students' photos have been used. Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives at 410-313-7867.