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Wednesday, May 24, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Former paster charged for child pornography

A former Lawrence County PA pastor has been charged with 192 counts of possession of child pornography.

The Rev. Robert D. Schmidtberger, 50, of New Castle PA, faces a preliminary hearing Thursday after a yearlong investigation by state police. He resigned April 22 as pastor of Rose Point Reformed Presbyterian Church in New Castle.

Authorities said they seized computers, CD-ROMs and other hardware from his home and found 161 images of child pornography and bestiality on the CD-ROMs and 31 images of child pornography on ZIP drives. Investigators found six e-mails on the CDs that contained attachments of child pornography.

The e-mails were sent from the AmericaOnline screen name "RobthePastor," police said.

Schmidtberger also is charged with three counts of distributing child pornography and three counts of criminal use of a communications facility.

Officials at AmericaOnline discovered the photos in the e-mails and alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Investigators there alerted state police in Butler, and police began investigating Schmidtberger in May 2005.

He had been pastor at Rose Point since November 1994. The church belongs to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America -- a small, conservative denomination known for its belief in the Bible as infallible and its adherence to the orthodox theology of church reformers John Calvin and John Knox.