Man sentenced to life without parole for sexual abuse of 4-year-old

Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that 32-year-old Joplin, Missouri resident Anthony Leon Helsel was sentenced by District Judge M. Douglas Harpool on Tuesday to life in federal prison without parole.


In September 2018 law enforcement received two tips concerning Helsel's online activity.  One indicated that he was offering a 4-year-old girl for sex through KIK and the other that he had uploaded images depicting child pornography to his social media account.


The following month, Kentucky law enforcement confirmed to investigators that Helsel had offered images of child pornography to one of their undercover officers and to other members of a group on KIK.


On October 2, 2018 officers executed a search warrant at his residence.  According to the statement, when the search warrant was executed, he was found to be conversing on KIK with Gary McKinney, also of Joplin.  On February 26, 2020 McKinney was sentenced to 15 years for receiving and distributing child pornography.


Court documents show that Helsel created "hundreds of images and videos of the child victim's sexual abuse."  He was found to have shared images and videos of that abuse with many other KIK users.  Additional images were located that depicted Helsel abusing a one-year-old infant.


The child victims was said to have told investigators that she had been sexually assaulted by Helsen and another unnamed individual.


On September 24, 2019 Helsel pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of sex trafficking a minor.

Anthony Leon Helsel, 32, of Joplin, Missouri.