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Villanova Campus Minister Charged in Child Porn Case

The feds raided Tim O’Connell’s Drexel Hill home on Tuesday.


Villanova campus minister Timothy O’Connell (Image via Villanova Campus Ministries Facebook)

This is a developing story and may be updated at any time.

Until Tuesday, Drexel Hill resident Timothy O’Connell was the well-regarded campus minister for Latino outreach at Villanova University, the oldest Catholic university in the state of Pennsylvania. But then the FBI showed up at his home with some troubling questions.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia, O’Connell’s name came up as the result of a federal investigation into another man, Justyn Perez-Colon, who was arrested in February and charged with the production and distribution of child pornography.

Investigators say that they eventually connected an email address that allegedly received sexually explicit photos of a year-and-a-half-old girl and other young children from Perez-Colon to O’Connell’s home address in Drexel Hill. According to the criminal complaint, O’Connell allegedly replied to these images with comments like “she is cute,” “very hot,” “very nice,” and “get me hard.”

Last week, the FBI obtained a search warrant for O’Connell’s home, his Villanova office, and his two cars. Investigators executed that warrant on Tuesday and interviewed O’Connell during their search.

According to the criminal complaint, O’Connell admitted to using the internet to view sexually explicit images of children. The complaint goes on to say that O’Connell told the FBI that he was sexually attracted to a third-grade girl that he had babysat.

The feds have charged O’Connell with one count of the receipt of child pornography, a crime punishable by a maximum of ten years in federal prison. O’Connell could not be reached for comment; as of Wednesday afternoon, his Villanova email address and phone extension were still active. O’Connell is in federal custody and is scheduled for a court hearing on Thursday.

“Villanova University is appalled and horrified by these allegations,” a spokesperson for Villanova told Philly Mag on Wednesday afternoon. “The university has suspended this individual and he is not permitted to return to campus. Villanova is fully cooperating with the FBI in its investigation.”

The spokesperson emphasized that O’Connell is not a priest but, rather, a lay person.

According to online bios we found for O’Connell, he worked in the Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia prior to his time at Villanova, and has a wife and two sons.