By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — A 61-year-old Wausau who accessed hundreds of images “consistent with the sexual exploitation of children” will spend three years in prison, following a plea and sentencing hearing Monday.

Thomas Debonville was convicted Dec. 9 in Marathon County Court on two felony charges of possessing child pornography, the result of a cybertip from a Microsoft-owned search engine. The charges were filed May 31 in Marathon County Circuit Court.

Local police on April 25 received the tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and submitted by Microsoft-owned Bing regarding the illegal uploads, which were traced back to a Wausau internet address owned by Debonville, court documents state.

That report was enough to persuade a judge to issue a search warrant for computers and other devices owned by Debonville.

With a warrant in hand, police on May 30 went to Debonville’s home and searched his computer. There, according to court records, they discovered thousands of searches resulting in hundreds of sexually explicit images depicting girls age approximately 10-14 years old.

Debonville allegedly admitted viewing the images and said he had been viewing the pornography for about a year, police said.

Advocates say people who possess such images and videos create a market for the sexual exploitation of children, which typically leads to long-term harm. Children who are victimized often need years of therapy to recover from the impact of the crimes committed against them. Circulating the documentation of their abuse can mean children are victimized over and over again while people around the world use the photos and videos for their own sexual gratification, according to the NCMEC.

At sentencing, Circuit Judge Greg Huber also ordered Debonville to spend four years on extended supervision following his release from prison and to register as a sex offender for 15 years.

Debonville, who was free on a $5,000 cash bond, was remanded into custody immediately after sentencing.