Federal search warrant debunks theories behind Sunspot Observatory closure

New Mexico News

New federal court documents reveal what led to the mysterious closure of the Sunspot observatory in southeast New Mexico. 

For nearly two weeks, theories loomed over the strange closure of the solar observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico. 

With the feds tight lipped, people forced to evacuate were left clueless.

There were theories of extraterrestrials and government leaks; authorities confirmed it was neither, but rather a criminal investigation. 

Now, a federal search warrant for the property of an observatory janitor, hired about a year ago, is shedding new light on what was really going on. 

The warrant states in July, federal agents began searching a child protection database and found child porn linked to an IP address at the Sunspot observatory. 

In August, they began speaking to the chief observer at Sunspot, who said he found a laptop running in several empty offices over the last few months. 

He told the feds what he found on the desktop was “not good,” and that it appeared to be child porn. 

The search warrant states the feds then monitored all the IP addresses and found the exact time child porn was being sent out. 

It matched only one employee: a janitor. 

Once that janitor realized his computer was no longer there, the director says he “feverishly started looking through the facility,” started making comments about “lax security at the facility,” said it was “only a matter of time before the facility got hit, and he “believed there was a serial killer in the area” and that killer might enter the facility and execute someone.

The director says that’s when he became concerned for his personal safety, and along with the agencies that operate the facility decided to evaluate it and shut it down. 

Items seized from the suspect’s home include cell phone, laptops, SD cards and thumb-drives. 

KRQE News 13 is not naming the janitor because he has yet to be charged. 

The documents also say that the observatory terminated its contract with the cleaning company that happened to be owned by the janitor’s parents.

It remains unclear is why the area post office was also evacuated. 

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