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Illinois Predator Sentenced to 42 Years in Federal Prison for Years of Sexual Abuse of a Young Child He Drugged with Methamphetamine

— June 17, 2024

Nichols was an active user of methamphetamine and supplied the child with the drug to facilitate some of the sexual abuse.

INDIANAPOLIS – Zachary Nichols, 31, of Newton, Illinois, has been sentenced to 42 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of permitting or assisting by a parent or guardian in the sexual exploitation of a child.

According to court documents, Zachary Nichols had been in a romantic relationship with a relative of an eleven-year-old child. Beginning in at least 2016, Nichols began sexually abusing the child and recording the abuse. Nichols groomed, sexually abused, and raped the child for years, all while recording and taking photos of the abuse.

Nichols was an active user of methamphetamine and supplied the child with the drug to facilitate some of the sexual abuse. The child is nearly incapacitated because of drug use in some of the child sex abuse material that Nichols created. Nichols continued supplying methamphetamine to the child well into the victim’s teenage years.

On multiple occasions, Nichols forced the child to engage in sexual conduct with Dustin Cox on camera. Cox was Nichols’ drug dealer and was also a registered sex offender at the time. Nichols received drugs in exchange for bringing the child to be sexually abused by Cox. Cox has been charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Child, and Conspiracy to Sexually Exploit a child in a related case. Cox has filed a petition to plead guilty, and guilty plea and sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

On August 25, 2022, Nichols was arrested in Illinois. A court-authorized search of his phone and Google account showed multiple image and video files depicting Nichols sexually abusing the child.

The FBI and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department investigated this case. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge James R. Sweeney II. Judge Sweeney also ordered that Nichols must pay $20,000 in restitution to the victim.

“For years, Zachary Nichols sexually abused a child entrusted in his care in the most horrific of ways: so utterly depraved he traded his victim’s body for meth and pushed the drug on the innocent child. Nichols inflicted the worst childhood traumas imaginable, and the harms will echo for the rest of the victim’s life,” said Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana “There is no place in a civilized society for men like this. Thanks to the talent and dedication of the team at the FBI, our law enforcement partners, and our federal prosecutor, children will be safe from this man for many, many years.”

Image of a sad boy
Sad Boy; image courtesy of Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay,

“This sentence clearly demonstrates the gravity of the defendant’s heinous actions and ensures he will be behind bars for years to come and unable to perpetrate such depravity on another child,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who engage in these crimes.”

U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany J. Preston, who prosecuted this case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

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