Former Bethalto church elder faces 21 additional child porn charges
An Alton man caught hiding cameras in the changing areas of a Bethalto church will serve up to 15 years in prison.
David L. Von Bergen, 60, pleaded guilty Friday to hiding several cameras in areas throughout Zion Lutheran Church, including the changing area in the sacristy. The cameras were placed between June and December 2015, and were discovered Christmas Eve.
Police later discovered multiple recordings of individuals in the church, including at least one minor. Von Bergen was an elder of the church, and assistant pastor Rev. Kale Hanson came across him trying to remove the cameras.
Prosecutors initially alleged Hanson agreed to destroy a memory card from one of the cameras and allowed Von Bergen to leave with some of them. Hanson was charged with obstruction of justice, but later, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said Hanson was “fully cooperative.”
“We determined he was unaware of the contents of the memory card that was destroyed,” Gibbons said. Charges against Hanson were dismissed Friday, Gibbons said.
Von Bergen pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography, a Class X felony. Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He also must pay $20,000 in restitution.
Von Bergen originally faced more than 20 charges, including production and possession of child pornography; unauthorized videotaping of adults and children in restrooms, changing rooms and under the clothes; and obstruction of justice.
“The horribly disturbing acts of this defendant violated the trust and sanctity of his victims specifically and also the entire Zion Church family in their place of worship,” said Gibbons.
Von Bergen’s 37-year-old son, David J. Von Bergen, was also arrested and charged with multiple counts of child pornography and predatory sexual assault. He faced up to 180 years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts and, in January 2017, was sentenced to 80 years in prison, of which he must serve 85 percent. At least one of the videos showed him engaged in sexual acts with juvenile girls.
Gibbons thanked the church leaders who aided with the investigation and helped identify victims. He said he hoped the prison sentence will provide “justice and comfort.”