Child sex charges filed against Montana man connected to Alicia Navarro’s disappearance
HELENA, MT (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- A Montana man connected to the disappearance of Alicia Navarro is facing felony charges after “child sexual abuse material” was found on a cellphone seized during a search warrant earlier this year, the Montana Attorney General’s Office announced on Tuesday.
The attorney general’s office announced the charges, two felony counts of sexual abuse of children, against 36-year-old Edmund Davis after his arrest on Monday in Chinook. He is being held in the Hill County Detention Center on a $1 million bond.
It was unknown if Davis is considered a suspect in the disappearance of Navarro. Authorities in Montana referred questions to law enforcement in Arizona, who said the investigation into the teenager’s disappearance is ongoing. Detectives do think he has been living with Navarro for quite some time. “It appears like she believes she wants to be with Mr. Davis and a relationship and future with him was possible,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said.
The announcement of the criminal charges by Knudsen ends months of silence by authorities about Navarro’s case. But key questions remain unanswered, including how and when the teenager ended up in far northern Montana — nearly 1,400 miles from her childhood home in Glendale— and whether Davis played a part in her disappearance.
It was Navarro’s case investigators believe opened up Pandora’s Box. “That certainly was the impetus for what cracked this open. That’s what got us the search warrant to get into the apartment, search warrants to get us into his devices,” Knudsen said.
In July, police executed a search warrant on Davis’s apartment in Havre, Montana, after detectives learned that Navarro was living in the small town about 35 miles south of the Canadian border. Authorities say Navarro answered the door before officers saw Davis throw the phone into a trash can and try to hide it.
Forensics investigators found dozens of images of suspected child porn. Glendale police obtained a copy of the images that were analyzed. The charges describe the images as involving prepubescent girls, infants and toddlers.
Navarro left a note behind when she disappeared from her home days before her 15th birthday, sparking a massive search that included the FBI. She was almost 19 when she walked into the Havre, Montana, police station in July and said she wanted to be removed from the missing persons list.
Over the years, Navarro’s mother, Jessica Nuñez, said that her daughter, who was diagnosed with autism, may have been lured away by someone she met online. When she disappeared in 2019, Navarro took only her laptop and cell phone.
Davis has not yet appeared in court on the charges and no hearings have been scheduled, court officials said. He made an initial appearance in Justice Court in Blaine County, said Kyler Nerison, a spokesman for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Davis did not have an attorney on record and calls to telephone numbers listed under his name went unanswered. He’s charged with child sexual abuse, which can result in life in prison, and knowingly possessing electronic images of a child or children under 12 engaged in sexual conduct, which carries a 100-year prison sentence.
The Glendale Police Department on Tuesday declined to answer questions on the investigation into Navarro’s disappearance, including what additional information authorities had gathered during the residence search in Havre and in follow-up interviews. Montana police say they continue working with Glendale police on this case but say so far, Navarro hasn’t been willing to discuss what led to her disappearance and what happened since then. “We’re hopeful that based on these charges now and based upon her knowledge of the activity Mr. Davis was involved in, hopefully that will change,” Knudsen said.
Authorities in July said it was up to Navarro whether to return home since she was 18 years old and legally an adult.
Trent Steele, a private investigator who assisted Nuñez in the search for Navarro through the Miami-based nonprofit Anti-Predator Project, said investigators continue to look at the circumstances of the teenager’s disappearance. More charges in the case are possible, Steele said, adding that Navarro was “in a safe place” without disclosing the particulars. “The decision was to charge him with the most obvious crimes, the most serious crimes and the ones that we can probably make stick without having to retraumatize anybody,” he said.
In the years after her daughter’s disappearance, Nuñez paid for a billboard ad in Mexico that featured a photo of her daughter and bought 10 more ads in Las Vegas. She also spoke at events and gave media interviews to raise awareness about missing people.
Authorities in 2019 collected security footage from around the family’s neighborhood and tried to track Navarro’s phone and laptop. They followed up on dozens of reports of possible sightings of the missing teenager around her Arizona town that came up empty.
Associated Press reporters Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Rio Yamat in Las Vegas contributed to this story.
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