In the small town of Marshall, Sask., it came as a shock to Mayor Darlene Puckey that a 40-year-old local man who lived in a home with a home-based daycare faces multiple charges, including sexual assault and sexual interference.
Word about the charges rippled through the small community of roughly 600 people, leaving Puckey to sympathize with residents reeling from the news.
“Things like this just happen out of the blue, and none of us have a clue. I do feel for the community and I hope for the best,” she said.
Joseph Sproull, 40, is charged with one count of possessing child porn, one count of distributing child porn, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of sexual interference and three counts of making child porn available, Maidstone RCMP said Wednesday in a news release. He's facing those charges after a website alerted RCMP that child pornography videos had been uploaded on its platform.
"This is an alarming, heartbreaking situation that affects the most vulnerable — young children. We are doing everything in our power to identity all the victims affected by this terrible situation and provide everyone the support they need right now," RCMP Supt. Vincent Foy said Wednesday in a statement.
"I can only imagine the anguish those affected are going through and the anxiety the whole community is facing. Rest assured all required resources are being dedicated to this investigation."
Li'l Tykes Dayhome responded via Facebook message that it planned to comment on the matter at a later date. Its page has since been deleted.
Puckey said she used to live by Li'l Tykes, adding that she's waiting to hear more from authorities.
“They (the operators of Li'l Tykes) have been members of this community for as long as I remember,” she said.
RCMP received the tip from the website on July 14 and the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation Unit contacted the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education the same day, RCMP said.
According to police, investigators searched the home and found two cellphones and two laptops, which were provided to investigators and forensically examined. Investigators found images of what they believe to be three unknown young children being sexually assaulted by a man.
The RCMP are not publicly releasing the ages of the victims to protect their identities.
The Ministry of Education suspended the daycare's licence on July 16 and advised parents of that decision, RCMP said on Wednesday.
Sproull was arrested and charged on Tuesday and made his first court appearance Wednesday in North Battleford. He will appear in Lloyminster provincial court Thursday afternoon via closed-circuit television.
According to RCMP, investigators are meeting with the parents of the children who attended the daycare, and support — including victim services — is being offered to everyone affected.
Anyone who suspects they or their child has been a victim, or has information about these incidents, is asked to call the North Battleford RCMP Provincial General Investigation Section at 306-446-1615.
Anyone who requires support during this investigation is asked to contact the Midwest Victim Services Program at 780-874-5021.
Marshall is roughly 120 kilometres north of North Battleford.
Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix