Medford man charged in sex abuse case

MEDFORD — A 28-year-old Medford man was charged with 10 counts of encouraging child sexual abuse Tuesday after police reportedly linked him to explicit computer chats with a New Hampshire teenager.

The arrest of Mark Winston Pace capped a nine-month investigation, which began after Medford police were alerted to the crime by New Hampshire law enforcement, Medford police Sgt. Kevin Walruff said.

New Hampshire State Police discovered a 14-year-old girl in that state was engaging in explicit chats on a teenage-themed Web site. They soon tracked the man on the end of the chat line to Southern Oregon, Walruff said.

"We've been aware of this for some time and have been in contact with Pace since near the beginning," Walruff said.

They seized Pace's computer and found 10 sexually explicit images that had passed to the teenager. The chats allegedly consisted of sexual acts committed on juveniles, Walruff said.

Sifting through computer files to build a sexual abuse case is time consuming, which accounted for the nine-month delay in putting Pace behind bars, Walruff said.

"We take this very seriously and want to make sure we have as strong a case as we can before handing the evidence to the district attorney," he said.

Pace faces 10 felony charges of second-degree encouraging child sexual abuse.

Pace's computer was turned over to the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force based in Central Point. It is possible those detectives could find additional images and more charges could be flied against Pace, Walruff said.

"There could be more victims involved in this case," Walruff said.

In addition, New Hampshire police could bring their own charges against Pace, who remained lodged in the Jackson County Jail Tuesday on $50,000 bail. "After we finish everything on our end we intend to package it and send it off to New Hampshire," Walruff said.

Walruff encourages parents to closely monitor the Internet activity of younger children. Software packages are available that will track a child's computer activity, which could help police build a case against online predators.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471 or e-mail him at cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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