Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch

Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch is a Great Circle facility near Steelville, Missouri, that serves thousands of children a year in state custody and others with autism. Photo by Jesse Bogan, jbogan@post-dispatch.com

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ST. LOUIS — A former employee of an outdoor ranch that serves children with autism and troubled youth in state custody was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison on child pornography charges. 

Nicholas P. Hodges will also be on supervised release for life.

At the time of his arrest last year, Hodges worked at the Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch, a 1,200-acre "adventure base" near Steelville, Mo., that's run by Great Circle.  

Nicholas P. Hodges

Nicholas P. Hodges was charged in Crawford County with possession of child porn in late 2020. Federal officials took over the case in February.

Hodges, 26, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis in August to a felony charge of possession of child porn. He admitted having about 3,900 images and videos containing child porn. He also admitted searching for and sharing images on online, and taking pictures of clothed underage girls that he encountered at the camp and at church that he used for sexual gratification.

Hodges admitted telling law enforcement that "his desires were potentially dangerous for clients at the type of facilities where he worked."

Hodges' lawyers had asked for three years or less in prison, saying Hodges collected porn but had never tried to touch any children and was amenable to treatment. Prosecutors wanted five years.

After his arrest, Great Circle, the Webster Groves-based behavioral health organization, said Hodges passed background checks and an internal investigation revealed no evidence to suggest any Great Circle child had been affected.

Robert Patrick • 314-340-8131

@rxpatrick on Twitter

RPatrick@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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