Former School Bus Driver Has July Court Date on Child Porn Charges

Child Porn Bust

A former Springdale school bus driver accused in a child pornography investigation has a July 1 court hearing, said Van Stone, Benton County prosecutor.

The former driver, George O’Dea, pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on March 25 to 10 counts of possession of child pornography, records show.

O’Dea was scheduled for an omnibus hearing in Benton County Circuit Court on Monday (April 29), Stone said. However, that hearing was rescheduled for July 1 at 8:30 a.m. before Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green, Stone said. The hearing was rescheduled to give time for final forensic-examination reports to come in, Stone said.

Earlier Monday, in answering an e-mail from 5NEWS, Stone said O’Dea pleaded not guilty on Monday, but Stone later corrected that, saying the not-guilty plea was March 25.

Not guilty pleas are customary at arraignments, allowing a case to proceed in the legal system.

Meanwhile, O’Dea, who lives in Rogers but was a driver in Springdale, recently resigned from his position with the district, according to a Springdale School District spokesman.

George O’Dea, 65, of Rogers was arrested in February after Benton County deputies said they uncovered 500 images of child pornography on computers in O’Dea’s house. He was later released from the Benton County Jail on $50,000 bond, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

O’Dea was subsequently suspended with pay from his job as a Springdale school bus driver, while administrators decided a course of action. O’Dea then resigned from the district, said Rick Schaeffer, spokesman for the school district.

Administrators said in February they would wait until the investigation into O’Dea concluded before deciding on a course of action for his employment.

The Springdale bus driver arrested in the child pornography case told detectives he accidentally downloaded material of children having sex, according to an arrest warrant affidavit from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies were able to trace the IP address of O’Dea’s home computer from child pornography downloads online, the affidavit states. Deputies subpoenaed AT&T for the information.

When deputies carried out a search warrant on O’Dea’s home, the suspect told a detective he downloaded the child pornography, but deleted it as soon as he located it, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

O’Dea was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

O’Dea told detectives he downloaded pornography every day, and would often download up to 200 pornography files at a time, according to the affidavit.

“He stated he did not know who he was downloading from as he just searched by key words,” the affidavit states. “He admitted to downloading child pornography, but stated he did not do it intentionally, but that it was just lumped in with all the other downloads.”

O’Dea’s routes included Monitor Elementary School, Sonora Middle School and Springdale High School, Schaeffer said.

O’Dea was employed by the district for three years, Schaeffer said. He earns an annual salary of between $11,233 and $13,301, according to the school district website.

The arrest was made at O’Dea’s home at 3407 East Dr. in Rogers.

Deputies uncovered 500 images of child pornography on computers at the house, Cradduck said.

O’Dea’s wife, Linda, told 5NEWS she also is a bus driver in the Springdale school district. She had been a driver for about two months at the time of the arrest, Schaeffer said.

At the time of the arrest, she said she did not know why O’Dea was being taken into custody.

“My husband is the most honest man I`ve ever known in my life, and I can`t fathom this going on right now,” she said.

The arrest was the result of an investigation into child pornography begun Jan. 15 by the sheriff’s Cyber Crimes Unit, said Sheriff Kelley Cradduck.

Cradduck said the investigation was accelerated because the suspect frequently was around children. In addition to his job, he played Santa Claus during the holiday season, Cradduck said. The sheriff said it is unclear where O’Dea worked as a Santa Claus.

“When we learned that he was around children on a daily basis. He knew their names. He knew where they lived. He was in a position of trust. He played Santa Claus this year … (so) we felt like it was time to really amp up the case and move it along as fast as we could,” Cradduck said.

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