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Mitchell man facing rape, child porn, drug charges after video call screenshots prompt investigation

Authorities began investigating the man after someone took screenshots from a FaceTime that depicted child porn in the background.

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MITCHELL — A Mitchell man is facing life in prison after screenshots from a video call tipped off investigators about his possession of child pornography.

Robert Gerstenecker, 43, of Mitchell was charged with one count of rape of a victim under 13-years-old, 10 counts of possessing child pornography, one count of sexual contact with a child under 16-years-old and possession of a controlled substance.

According to court documents, law enforcement received a tip from the public on April 11 alleging Gerstenecker may be in possession of child pornography.

The reporting party said they held a video call with Gerstenecker on April 10 when the believed they saw child pornography in the background of Gerstenecker’s feed. They were able to take screenshots of the material in question, which were turned over to law enforcement.

Upon reviewing the screenshots, a special agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) determined there were at least two separate pieces of child pornography depicted in the screenshots.

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After obtaining a search warrant to collect items of digital and computer evidence from Gerstenecker’s home, authorities proceeded to search the residence. They were able to locate a cell phone hidden between a mattress and box spring as well as multiple baggies that later tested positive for methamphetamine.

As the search warrant was executed, special agents attempted to interview Gerstenecker at Mitchell’s police department. He elected the waiver of his rights and declined to speak with law enforcement.

The DCI later examined the contents of the SD card that had been installed in the cell phone, where they say they discovered more than 10 image and video files that depicted child pornography. Other files on the SD card allegedly included image and video files of a male, believed to be Gerstenecker, engaging of acts of sexual contact and sexual penetration with a juvenile female who special agents said was “clearly” under 13-years-old.

Based on their time spent inside Gerstenecker’s home during the execution of the search warrant, authorities believe the images and videos of Gerstenecker allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct with the juvenile girl were taken inside his home.

Special agents determined the acts occurred between Oct. 4, 2021, and Jan. 29, 2022.

Gerstenecker was placed under arrest and charged accordingly. After not entering a plea during an initial appearance on April 12, he was indicted by a grand jury on April 13 before a status hearing was canceled on April 14.

He’s due to appear again in a Davison County courtroom on April 26 for an arraignment.

Rape of a child under 13-years-old is a Class C felony, punishable by up to life in prison plus a fine of $50,000. All other charges could result in an additional sentence of up to 120 years in prison plus $240,000 in fines.

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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