Associate pastor in Mascoutah arrested on child porn allegations

MASCOUTAH, Ill. - An Associate Pastor of a Metro East church was arrested Monday (Jan. 8). The arrest comes at the same time Belleville Police make an arrest in a child pornography case.

According to our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, no charges have been filed against the Father Gerald Hechenberger, but the Diocese of Belleville confirmed he was arrested. Hechenberger is an associate pastor at the Holy Childhood Church and School in Mascoutah, Illinois.

Belleville police said they received a tip someone was distributing child porn in the Mascoutah area. Detectives used several online investigation techniques and surveillance details.

Monday, a search warrant was executed at a Mascoutah home.  With help from several agencies, police discovered the suspect was in possession of child porn depicting children under the age of 13. They have not identified the suspect because no charges have been filed.

A statement from the Diocese of Belleville reads “This is a very serious matter for Father Hechenberger. At this point, the Diocese has no reason to believe that any parishioners are affected by this matter. The Diocese is awaiting an update on information from the civil authorities, and has assured them of the Diocese’s full cooperation.”

In 2011, Hechenberger resigned from a Smithton church to address: "very serious personal, pastoral and legal challenges.” It appears no charges were ever filed then.