(KMOV) – A Highland man who works as a martial arts instructor is accused of video recording himself sexually abusing three boys he met at a local studio.
Christopher Horton, 20, was arrested Wednesday at the Three Tigers Martial Arts in Belleville. Horton faces both federal and state charges.
He was charged by the state of Illinois with seven counts of predatory criminal assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He faces two federal counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
Authorities said between May 1 of last year and Saturday, Horton engaged in sexual acts with three children. Police said the victims were 6, 8 and 10 years old.
Horton told authorities the incidents happened at the martial arts studio, his home and a Highland park. Another incident happened while he and a child were in San Antonio, Texas for a martial arts event.
According to court documents, Horton told police he recorded all the sex acts using his iPhone. Sources say family members saw these cell phone videos, and alerted authorities.
"From our point of view, this is truly one of the worst cases we've seen, in its scope and in the extent of the absolute depravity of the acts," said Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons.
News 4 spoke with the owner of the Three Tigers Martial Arts studio, who said his heart went out to the young victims. He said the studio had run a background check on Horton, but the check revealed nothing.
The charges were brought as a joint investigation between St. Clair County and Madison County.
“The facts alleged in the criminal complaint are shocking and horrific,” said United States Attorney Wigginton. “I will use all of my resources to ensure that these charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt so that this person is placed where he can never prey upon our children again.”
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly echoed Wigginton’s sentiments.
“These alleged crimes against our children demand the swift and severe action taken by the US Attorney, my office, and my counterpart in Madison County,” said Kelly.
Horton is currently being held without bond. No trial date has yet been scheduled.