A retired hospital chaplain has been handed a 60-year sentence for child sex abuse charges after a criminal complaint was made earlier this year.

Michael Downs, a former chaplain at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, was sentenced in federal court on Thursday after pleading guilty to sexually exploiting children this summer. The 71-year-old will spend 60 years behind bars and a lifetime on supervised release.

An investigation was launched into Downs by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Fort Worth police this January after a 17-year-old girl claimed that Downs had sexually abused her and recorded it on an iPad. Downs’ wife cooperated with investigators, turning over various electronic devices — including a hard drive with several sexually explicit photos and videos of the aforementioned encounter with the victim.

After his formal indictment on child abuse charges in March, Downs pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of children in July.

Federal prosecutor Leigha Simonton applauded the efforts of the District Attorney’s Office, Fort Worth police, and HSI to bring the perpetrator of this “shocking and abhorrent conduct” to justice.

“Let this be a message to others who seek to prey on children in this way: We will do everything in our power to incapacitate you by locking you away in prison for as long as possible,” Simonton said.

In response to Downs’ conviction, Cook Children’s released a statement expressing regret over the situation and claiming that it had never been altered to any “wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior” on the part of the former chaplain while he worked there from November 1997 to February 2022.

“Cook Children’s is committed to acting responsibly on behalf of our patients, families, visitors, and employees,” the statement from Cook Children’s read, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We are appalled, shocked, and deeply saddened by the heinous crimes committed by Michael Downs.”

Several allegations of child sex abuse and child pornography have emerged in North Texas this past year. An alarming number of them have involved educators, tutors, school resource officers, and other personnel entrusted with being around children, as previously covered in The Dallas Express.

Indecency with a minor is considered a felony offense in Texas, with the state legislature recently enhancing the criminal penalty for grooming to a third-degree felony.

Although the City of Dallas does not track child sex abuse offenses, a total of 711 sex offenses had been logged this year as of December 18, per its crime analytics dashboard.

Complicating its response to crime, the Dallas Police Department currently has 3,200 officers, which is considerably short of the roughly 4,000 recommended by the City in a prior analysis. The effects of this shortage can be seen in Downtown Dallas, which regularly logs higher crime rates than downtown Fort Worth, which is patrolled by a designated police unit and private security guards.