Former Tyler haunted house owner jailed on child porn charges

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The former owner of a popular East Texas haunted house has been jailed on child pornography charges.

Derek Ryan Laepple, 36, of Tyler, was arrested for possession of child porn by the United States Marshal Service on August 18, 2016. He is the former owner of Terror Nights Haunted House.

According to Derek Laepple’s sister, Laney Laepple, the company was sold to Wild Card Entertainment about two weeks ago by the mother of Laepple. The negotiation process began about two months ago.

According to the arrest affidavit, Derek Laepple intentionally and knowingly possessed visual material which showed children, younger than 18, engaging in sexual conduct.

On June 2, 2016, a Tyler police officer received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that was forwarded from the Dallas Police Department. The tip was submitted by Yahoo Inc., which stated there was a video and an image of child porn uploaded Flickr, a photo sharing/storing website affiliated with Yahoo.

The officer reported both the video and image were of a young girls showing their genitals. The children were between seven and 11-years-old.

Yahoo reported the account was uploaded from the account registered to “Ryan Laepple” with an email of “info@terrornightshaunt.com.”

Investigators determined the e-mail address and phone number linked to the account were affiliated with a local business named Terror Nights Haunted House. The business is owned by Laepple, who also goes by the stage name, “Kranky Klown.”

An online search revealed the phone number linked with the account was a mobile phone registered to Laepple.

The image and video uploaded had IP addresses connected to an account with Suddenlink registered at Laepple’s home, according to the affidavit.

In late June, a search warrant was issued at Laepple’s home, as well as for his cell phone. Numerous items were seized.

A forensic examination of Laepple’s phone was conducted. Numerous alarming images, about 45, were found on the device.

There were images in the internal memory of the phone that showed Robert E. Lee High School drill team members performing and a Chapel Hill High School volleyball player, dressed in spandex shorts, playing a game. There was also an image of the Rogers Children’s Theater, located in Tyler.

Also, within the phone was a sequence of photographs showing young girls undressing and showing their genitals. They were also engaging in sexual conduct with each other. 

A laptop, seized from Laepple’s residence, was also examined. 

The computer had a large amount of adult pornography that was categorized and highly organized, the affidavit states. 

The investigating officer noted in his report, “Laepple owns and manages a local haunted house which is a large attraction for children every year.”

With Halloween a short time away, the officer stated criminal charges were imminently necessary.

Terror Nights Haunted House first opened in October 2008. The East Texas attraction reopens for the 2016 Halloween season on Friday, September 30 and will remain open on designated days through Monday, October 31, according to the Terror Nights Haunted House website.

The haunted house takes up 15,000 square feet and takes about 15 minutes to venture through. 
 
Terror Nights Haunted House website states the attraction caters to children as young as 10-years-old. Juveniles under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Laepple was remains in the Smith County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Laney Laepple released this statement to KETK about Derek Laepple’s arrest:

“We have to wait and see what happens in court.”

As for the new haunted house, Laney said the show will be a great oen that is revamped and secure for everyone. Elite Security has been hired to work the attraction.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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