JSO detective under investigation for child porn takes his own life, police say

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detective found dead in an apparent suicide Tuesday was under investigation for having child pornography, court records show.

Investigators said the body of Det. Vernon Richardson, 56, was discovered in the Oakleaf area of Clay County. His death has been classified as suicide, but the investigation continues.

At the time of his death, Richardson had a warrant out for his arrest indicating he was wanted on a charge of felony possession of child pornography.

News4Jax does not typically report suicides, but chose to report this incident given the charges.

Richardson, who went by Allan, was a respected investigator who was popular within the Sheriff’s Office and obtained accolades for locating missing children. He was featured in a 2015 segment on News4Jax.

The I-TEAM has since learned that he was under investigation by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office since Christmas Eve after images depicting nude children were traced to his IP address.

An incident report shows Richardson denied the allegations. “If I was going to watch child pornography, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to upload or download it,” he told investigators.

When investigators seized a computer from Richardson’s home, they reported finding two images depicting child pornography. Sources told News4Jax an arrest was imminent.

Richardson, a former law enforcement officer of the year, was said to be a youth minister at Riverstone Community Church on the Westside. The church posted on Facebook: “We have suffered a devastating loss… Please be praying.”

The Rev. Rick Baldwin, pastor of Riverstone Community Church, said members of his congregation are shocked.

“I don’t think you will find anyone that would say, 'Oh yes, we suspected it.' If you do, they’re lying," Baldwin said. "Nobody in a million years would have believed something like this (was) possible.”

Grief counselors will be at the church on Sunday, Baldwin said.

When reached Wednesday evening, Sheriff Mike Williams said he had no comment after Richardson's death. The president of the Fraternal Order of Police also did not have a comment. Attempts to reach Richardson’s attorney were unsuccessful.​

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.