A Christian education professor at Wheaton College whose research focused extensively on children has been arrested. It happened after a months-long child pornography investigation.
Donald Ratcliff, 60, who has been on the faculty at the college since 2006, was charged with two counts of aggravated child pornography.
Police had opened an undercover investigation two or three months ago after they observed Ratcliff's computer trading child pornography online.
They entered the professor's home with a search warrant Wednesday morning and seized computers, discs, and hard drives. Investigators also found pornographic images of children younger than 13 on six or seven computers, some of which did not belong to him, according to prosecutors.
At his court hearing Friday, Judge Elizabeth Sexton ordered Ratcliff not to have contact with anyone younger than 18 or to use a computer or the Internet until a bond hearing next week on Thursday, March 8. His bail was set at $750,000.
If convicted of aggravated child pornography, Ratcliff could face up to seven years in prison.
Research Focused on Children
The professor's academic research focused primarily on children, particularly on the spiritual formation of children.
According to the Daily Herald, Ratcliffe had written on his personal website, "I appreciate children in all of their richness and complexity. They can be baffling, frustrating, delightful, and overwhelming. While I have studied child development in depth. I am particularly interested in the spirituality of children."
The website has since been taken down with the words "Account Suspended," placed on its home page.
Earlier Friday, Ratcliff's college biography stated, "Most of my research has involved children either in school or church contexts. I am particularly interested in family nurture of children's spiritual experiences and development."
That bio on Wheaton's website has since been truncated and simply states he is "on administrative leave." When contacted by CBN News about the story, college spokeswoman LaTonya Taylor declined to comment further.
Ratcliff also faces charges for possession of two handguns and ammunition without a firearm owners identification card, prosecutors said Friday.
Dan Collins, Ratcliff's attorney, told the local paper that the guns are "family heirlooms," but wouldn't comment further on the case.
Ratcliff holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Georgia and has been widely published.
He also serves as a "lay leader" at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wheaton. Rev. Kurt Gamlin of Aldersgate also declined to comment, but asked that church members pray.
--Published Mar. 2, 2012.