ST. GEORGE — A Hurricane man was arrested last week and terminated from his job after detectives received a tip that the man had been sharing sexually explicit images of a child and admitting to sexually abusive acts, investigators say.

2018 stock photo for illustrative purposes only, location and date not specified | Photo by St. George News

On Feb. 21, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber tipline that an internet user on, an online chat platform, admitted to sexually abusing an underaged youth of whom he then shared photos, according to charging documents filed with the court. 

The suspect, later identified as Benjamin Stewart, of Hurricane, also solicited nude photos of other children using a account and asked if he could message one of the other user’s children, the report states. And Stewart reportedly expressed a desire to have sexual intercourse with minors. 

The investigation also unveiled that as of the last quarter of 2023, Stewart was employed by the Washington County School District as a preschool special education teacher for the Hurricane Early Childhood Center.

Steve Dunham, communications director for the Washington County School District, told St. George News that while the district has not released an official statement, the Sheriff’s Office said the investigation indicates no students were involved.

Stewart was hired last August after he cleared a background check, but as soon as the school district was notified of the arrest and pending charges, Stewart’s employment “was immediately terminated,” Dunham said.

On Thursday, Stewart was detained at his place of employment and transported to his home in Hurricane, where a search of his residence was underway.  

During an interview with police, Stewart reportedly denied ever sending any nude photos of minors and said that while he had purchased a hidden camera “for other purposes,” he got rid of the camera more than a year ago.

Stock image of Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County, Utah | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

He was arrested and transported to Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.

On Friday, Stewart was formally charged with three second-degree felony charges, including two counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, each enhanced since the incidents involved a child, the docket states.

Stewart is scheduled to appear before District Judge Eric A. Ludlow for an initial appearance in 5th District Court in St. George on Monday. He remains in jail on a no-bail hold.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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