Union Democrat staff

An 18-year old Columbia man was arrested Wednesday on several sex charges after a search warrant was issued by the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation began in April when two suspected child abuse reports were made. The reports involved several potential victims, and two search warrants were issued.

The first search warrant was issued at a travel trailer where the suspect had stayed, and the second was for electronics related to the investigation, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release stated.

The search warrants helped investigators identify nine juvenile victims of potential child pornography, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Sheriff’s Office said that eight of the nine victims cooperated with the investigation, and all claimed they were coerced for the production and distribution of the pornography.

Upon further investigation, authorities discovered that the suspect had sex with two of the juveniles, one of whom was more than three years younger.

A warrant for the arrest of the suspect was issued after the case was presented to the District Attorney’s Office.

Zachary Kuhl, 18, was arrested and booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on eight counts of possession, creation and distribution of child pornography, 13 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor three or more years younger, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, 11 counts of burglary, six counts of contacting a minor with intent to commit sexual offense, and arranging a meeting place with a minor for lewd purposes. His bail is $500,000.

In a news release Friday afternoon, District Attorney Laura Krieg said she wanted “residents of the county to know that her office takes the targeting of underage victims for sexual exploitation extremely seriously and understands that social media may attempt to litigate the issues in this case through various forums.”

She said she wants to protect the privacy of the victims and would limit the information released about the case.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page had dozens of comments from people purporting to know the suspect and the victims as well as conjecture from others about what had happened or what caused the charges to be brought.

Commenters were going back and forth, making disparaging remarks about the suspect and each other.

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