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Press Release

South Texas man handed life sentence for child exploitation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas – A South Texas man and woman have been ordered to federal prison for production of child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Reid Etheridge, 42, McAllen, and Alicia Cronkhite, 30, Edinburg, pleaded guilty April 1, 2021.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Etheridge to serve a life sentence. Cronkhite was ordered to serve 180 months to be immediately followed by a lifetime of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional facts discussing the abuse both minor victims sustained at Etheridge and Cronkhite’s hands. In handing down the sentence, Judge Crane considered and heavily weighed the chances that Etheridge would re-offend in the future should he be released from federal prison. Judge Crane also considered that Etheridge manipulated Cronkhite into participating in their criminal conduct.

“This lengthy sentence is a testament to the repugnant nature of child exploitation crimes, particularly the production of child pornography which only perpetuates the trauma endured by victims,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Alejandro Amaro of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. “HSI agents make it a top priority to protect vulnerable children from victimization by working with their law enforcement partners to investigate predators involved with the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material and ensure they are held accountable for their heinous actions.”

Etheridge had filmed himself committing the sexual abuse and assault of two minor children from on or about Jan. 1, 2020, to approximately Oct. 1, 2020. As part of her guilty plea, Cronkhite admitted she took photographs of one minor victim’s exposed genitals and transmitted those photographs to Etheridge at his request.

The investigation began when authorities identified an IP address in McAllen that had uploaded images and videos depicting minor children engaged in sex acts. On Oct. 2, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant and encountered Etheridge at the residence. He soon admitted he had filmed himself sexually assaulting one minor victim.

Further investigation revealed communication between Etheridge and Cronkhite detailing the sexual exploitation of another minor victim. Authorities searched her residence, at which time she admitted she produced multiple images of a minor victim and transmitted the images to Etheridge.

Etheridge and Cronkhite will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations - Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Investigations Task Force conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mitchell prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources tab on that page.

Updated July 21, 2022

Project Safe Childhood