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A Detective finds 1000 images of child pornography on a Vernal man's phone

Posted by Travis Uresk | April 22nd, 2023 | Sexual Exploitation Of A Child |

By Travis Uresk


Vernal, Ut.- On 10/19/21, Det. Cottom, the acting investigator for the Utah Attorney General Office's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, was notified of a Cyber tip. The Cyber tip was reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by Instagram.

Instagram reported that a user sent an image of suspected child pornography on August 18th, 2021.

Along with the Cyber tip Det, Cottom received a video Instagram had flagged to be reviewed. The Detective examined the video and observed a video evident to him to be child pornography involving an adult male and a female around ten years old.

Basic information was provided for both involved accounts, gave a name of the Master Chief, a phone number, an email address, and an ESP user ID. One IP address returned to coming out of Dallas, Texas, and the other was from Vernal, Utah.

The Cyber tip report provided a Neustar report showing that a phone number 435-790-XXXX was a new Cingular Wireless number under a subscriber closely associated with 39-year-old Russell Eugene Drake.

Det. Cottom used an online search and found the number belonging to Russell Drake. An examination of local police records also showed this number belonged to Russell, who lives in Vernal, Utah. The Detective used various websites and connected Russell's email address that matched the Instagram account.

On 11/23/21, Det. Cottom received a return on the information requested from Facebook regarding an Instagram account of master chief. According to this information from the account, the master chief was registered on May 13th, 2019, by an individual giving only the last name of the master chief. The email address and phone number both matched the account.

On 1/4/22, Det. Cottom received a return from Microsoft related to the email address, and this return showed this email was created on 12/29/1999 by an individual named Russ Drake in the state of Utah in the town of Vernal.

On 4/10/22, Det. Cottom contacted Russell Drake by phone, and he agreed to meet with the Detective at the Vernal City Police Department. During their conversation Det. Collom explained to Russell several times that he was not under arrest and could leave at any time.

It was explained to Russell the reason for the interview and where Det. Cottom was in his investigation had led him so far. Russell admitted to having an Instagram account as well as an email account.

Russell stated that the Instagram account had been hacked sometime last year and continued to deny having downloaded or sent out any child pornography. Det. Cottom explained to Russell that he had the phone used to access the Instagram account's IP address and asked if he could tell him his phone's internet address to see if they matched. At this time, Russell said he was done speaking with the Detective.

Det. Cottom told Russell that he was free to leave, but he would be seizing his phone and applying for a search warrant to access the phone. This was due to the information and evidence on the phone easily being destroyed and altered if not secured immediately.

Due to the information of Russell claiming the accounts used to send the image, in this case, were his as well as him having an AT&T phone, with an AT&T internet address being used according to the prior information gathered, Det Cottom had cause to believe that Russell's phone and accounts attached to this phone had been used in distributing the image of child pornography in this case.

Upon the seizure of Russell Drake's phone, an Eighth District Court Judge granted a search warrant due to not having the pin code Det. Cottom could not access the phone and took it to the Intermountain West Regional Computer Forensics Lab in Salt Lake, Utah, because they had the technology to access it.

During the time that Russell Drake's cellphone was at IWRCFL Det. Cottom received three other Cyber tips about uploading and downloading child pornography. The account information in these Cyber tips contained the same phone numbers and emails as the original Cyber tips.

On 11/29/2022, Det. Cottom received the phone back from IWRCFL and was able to view the forensic extraction results of both the phone and the microSD card in the phone. Located on the microSD card were roughly 800 images and videos of child pornography under the Utah State Statute.

Located on the cell phone were several hundred more images and videos of child pornography under the Utah State Statute. This made the total number of videos and images on Russell Drake's cell phone over 1000.

The images show a wide range of juveniles, from infants to teenagers, in various sexual acts. Most pictures show females, with some depicting juvenile males. Of further concern are images and videos containing bestiality and alleged forcible rape.

Some images on the device are the same as those attached with the previously mentioned Cyber tips.

On 4/19/2023, Det. Cottom contacted Russell Drake at the Vernal City Police Department and attempted to speak with Russell further about the case, but he advised he did not wish to talk without an attorney present. At this time, Russell Drake was arrested and transported to the Uintah County Jail.

With this information, Russell Drake was booked into jail on charges related to the sexual exploitation of a minor. Det.Cottom booked Russell on twelve counts of this as a second-degree felony. This number seems to appropriately represent over 1000 images found without burdening the court and prosecutor with excessive charges.

Russell Drake's Bail is set in the amount of $30,000.00

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Teens and Young Adults

It is estimated that one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before turning 18. In other words, childhood sexual abuse is quite common. Additionally, 95% of those children will be sexually abused by someone they know or are close to. Due to this, the distressing nature of sexual abuse and where the child may be in their personal growth can make seeking help difficult. What is Sexual Abuse?

To be clear, sexual abuse is when someone is sexual with a child. Examples of this are:

  • Touching or fondling private areas of the child’s body sexually.

  • Inserting objects inside of the child’s private areas for sexual pleasure or some reason not related to their health.

  • Someone exposing their body in a sexual way to a child.

  • Masturbating in front of a child or asking the child to masturbate in front of them.

  • Showing a child pornography.

  • Observing a child going to the bathroom or undress without their consent or knowledge.

  • Using social media, websites, or other forms of digital communication to expose a child to pornography or engage with them inappropriately.

  • Any sexual act with a minor, clothed or unclothed.

Signs of Sexual Abuse Every child is different, and because of this, they generally tend to exhibit signs of being sexually abused differently. A child's age also influences how they will emotionally process abuse. If your child exhibits one or two of the following signs, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have been abused. But the signs they do show could be reasonable grounds for further investigation on your part.

Some signs that indicate that a child age 12 or younger has been sexually abused include:

  • Obsession with their own and other people’s genitals.

  • Making other children do sex play with them, especially younger children.

  • Inappropriate sex play with a much younger child involving heavy genital touching.

  • Frequent sex play despite you talking to them and discussing why it may be invasive.

  • A lot of masturbation.

  • Sexualized play with toys.

  • Playing games that involve toys or dolls getting frequently penetrated.

  • Peeping, exposing themselves, or often speaking in obscenities.

  • Touching the genitals of adults or children who are strangers.

  • Being able to describe sex despite being a young child.

  • Sores around their mouth.

  • Bruising or bleeding in or around their abdomen.

  • Saying that they have a secret they can’t tell you or generally being more secretive.

  • Being withdrawn or anxious.

  • Your child or child’s peers telling you about their abuse.

  • Preferring to sleep with their clothes on.

  • Nightmares and issues sleeping.

  • Regressive behaviors.

  • Mysterious gifts and money.

  • Refusal to go to someone’s house or engage in certain activities.

  • Subtly mentioning their abuse.

  • Suddenly acting younger than they are.

  • Fear of touching.

In older children, some of the signs might include:

  • Drug dependencies

  • Suicide attempts

  • Self-harm or mutilation

  • Eating disorders

  • Pregnancy

  • Running away from home

  • Being withdrawn or angry often

  • Heavily preoccupied with pornography or being verbally sexually aggressive

  • Crying for no apparent reason

  • Low self-esteem

  • Trouble having or maintaining friendships

  • Gets upset at the idea of a specific person

  • Dresses differently

  • Changes their friend circle

  • Does worse at school

  • Doesn’t like doing activities they previously loved

  • Injuries, discomfort, bruises, or bleeding in or around their abdomen

Remember, every individual processes abuse in their own way. Sometimes, there will be an immediate change in them. Other times, it will take years for their feelings to surface. Children typically tell you without explicitly telling you, so it's crucial to be perceptive and take anything they say about their personal safety seriously. What to Do if a Child Tells You They're Being Abused

Around 98% of all reported child sexual abuse cases are found to be true. It takes an enormous amount of courage for children to come forward with their abuse, mostly because they're usually threatened not to tell anyone.

If a young child or teen tells you they've been sexually abused, your reaction is crucial to their development and ability to heal. Try to remain calm and compassionately reassure them. Tell them that:

  • You believe them

  • They're correct in telling you

  • They're brave for sharing what happened to them

  • They're not to blame

  • They're loved no matter what

  • They're safe and you will help them

  • You'll do what you can to end the abuse

Child abuse

Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time.

  • Physical abuse. Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.

  • Sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is any sexual activity with a child. This can involve sexual contact, such as intentional sexual touching, oral-genital contact or intercourse. This can also involve noncontact sexual abuse of a child, such as exposing a child to sexual activity or pornography; observing or filming a child in a sexual manner; sexual harassment of a child; or prostitution of a child, including sex trafficking.

  • Emotional abuse. Emotional child abuse means injuring a child's self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.

  • Medical abuse. Medical child abuse occurs when someone gives false information about illness in a child that requires medical attention, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical care.

  • Neglect. Child neglect is failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, clean living conditions, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care.

In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the proper authorities.


A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. The child may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities

  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance

  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence

  • Sleep problems and nightmares

  • An apparent lack of supervision

  • Frequent absences from school

  • Rebellious or defiant behavior

  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.

Physical abuse signs and symptoms

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, broken bones (fractures) or burns

  • Injuries that don't match the given explanation

  • Injuries that aren't compatible with the child's developmental ability

Sexual abuse signs and symptoms

  • Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age

  • Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection

  • Genital or anal pain, bleeding, or injury

  • Statements by the child that he or she was sexually abused

  • Inappropriate sexual behavior with other children

Emotional abuse signs and symptoms

  • Delayed or inappropriate emotional development

  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem

  • Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm

  • Depression

  • Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus

  • Appears to desperately seek affection

  • A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school

  • Loss of previously acquired developmental skills

Neglect signs and symptoms

  • Poor growth

  • Excessive weight with medical complications that are not being adequately addressed

  • Poor personal cleanliness

  • Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs

  • Hoarding or stealing food

  • Poor record of school attendance

  • Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care

Parental behavior

Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:

  • Shows little concern for the child

  • Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child

  • Blames the child for the problems

  • Consistently belittles or berates the child, and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"

  • Expects the child to provide attention and care to the parent and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child

  • Uses harsh physical discipline

  • Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance

  • Severely limits the child's contact with others

  • Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all

  • Repeatedly brings the child for medical evaluations or requests medical tests, such as X-rays and lab tests, for concerns not seen during the health care provider's examination

Physical punishment

Child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, but some people still use physical punishment, such as spanking, to discipline their children. While parents and caregivers often use physical punishment with the intention of helping their children or making their behavior better, research shows that spanking is linked with worse, not better, behavior. It's also linked to mental health problems, difficult relationships with parents, lower self-esteem and lower academic performance.

Any physical punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain, physical injury or emotional trauma — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.

When to see a doctor

If you're concerned that your child or another child has been abused, seek help immediately. Depending on the situation, contact the child's health care provider, a local child welfare agency, the police department or a 24-hour hotline for advice. In the United States, you can get information and assistance by calling or texting the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.

If the child needs immediate medical attention, call 911 or your local emergency number.

In the United States, keep in mind that health care professionals and many other people, such as teachers and social workers, are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to the appropriate local child welfare agency.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase a person's risk of becoming abusive include:

  • A history of being abused or neglected as a child

  • Physical or mental illness, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Family crisis or stress, including domestic violence and other marital conflicts, or single parenting

  • A child in the family who is developmentally or physically disabled

  • Financial stress, unemployment or poverty

  • Social or extended family isolation

  • Poor understanding of child development and parenting skills

  • Alcohol, drugs or other substance abuse


Some children overcome the physical and psychological effects of child abuse, particularly those with strong social support and resiliency skills who can adapt and cope with bad experiences. For many others, however, child abuse may result in physical, behavioral, emotional or mental health issues — even years later.

Here are some examples.

Physical issues

  • Premature death

  • Physical disabilities

  • Learning disabilities

  • Substance abuse

  • Health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancer

Behavioral issues

  • Illegal or violent behavior

  • Abuse of others

  • Withdrawal

  • Suicide attempts or self-injury

  • High-risk sexual behaviors or teen pregnancy

  • Problems in school or not finishing high school

  • Limited social and relationship skills

  • Problems with work or staying employed

Emotional issues

  • Low self-esteem

  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships

  • Challenges with intimacy and trust

  • An unhealthy view of parenthood

  • Inability to cope with stress and frustrations

  • An acceptance that violence is a normal part of relationships

Mental health disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Personality disorders

  • Behavior disorders

  • Depression

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia) and nightmares

  • Attachment disorders


You can take important steps to protect your child from exploitation and child abuse, as well as prevent child abuse in your neighborhood or community. The goal is to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships for children.

Here's how you can help keep children safe:

  • Offer your child love and attention. Nurture and listen to your child and be involved in your child's life to develop trust and good communication. Encourage your child to tell you if there's a problem. A supportive family environment and social networks can help improve your child's feelings of self-esteem and self-worth.

  • Don't respond in anger. If you feel overwhelmed or out of control, take a break. Don't take out your anger on your child. Talk with your health care provider or a therapist about ways you can learn to cope with stress and better interact with your child.

  • Think supervision. Don't leave a young child home alone. In public, keep a close eye on your child. Volunteer at school and for activities to get to know the adults who spend time with your child. When old enough to go out without supervision, encourage your child to stay away from strangers and to hang out with friends rather than be alone. Make it a rule that your child tells you where he or she is at all times. Find out who's supervising your child — for example, at a sleepover.

  • Know your child's caregivers. Check references for babysitters and other caregivers. Make irregular, but frequent, unannounced visits to observe what's happening. Don't allow substitutes for your usual child care provider if you don't know the substitute.

  • Emphasize when to say no. Make sure your child understands that he or she doesn't have to do anything that seems scary or uncomfortable. Encourage your child to leave a threatening or frightening situation immediately and seek help from a trusted adult. If something happens, encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult about what happened. Assure your child that it's OK to talk and that he or she won't get in trouble.

  • Teach your child how to stay safe online. Put the computer in a common area of your home, not the child's bedroom. Use the parental controls to restrict the types of websites your child can visit. Check your child's privacy settings on social networking sites. Consider it a red flag if your child is secretive about online activities. Cover online ground rules, such as not sharing personal information; not responding to inappropriate, hurtful or frightening messages; and not arranging to meet an online contact in person without your permission. Tell your child to let you know if an unknown person makes contact through a social networking site. Report online harassment or inappropriate senders to your service provider and local authorities, if necessary.

  • Reach out. Meet the families in your neighborhood, including parents and children. Develop a network of supportive family and friends. If a friend or neighbor seems to be struggling, offer to babysit or help in another way. Consider joining a parent support group so that you have an appropriate place to vent your frustrations.

If you worry that you might abuse your child

If you're concerned that you might abuse your child, seek help immediately. In the United States, you can get information and assistance by calling or texting the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Or you can start by talking with your family health care provider. Your provider may offer a referral to a parent education class, counseling or a support group for parents to help you learn appropriate ways to deal with your anger. If you're misusing alcohol or drugs, ask your health care provider about treatment options.

If you were abused as a child, get counseling to ensure you don't continue the abuse cycle or teach those destructive behaviors to your child.

Remember, child abuse is preventable — and often a symptom of a problem that may be treatable. Ask for help today.


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