INDIANAPOLIS — A Fishers man will spend 35 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.
The charges stem from an investigation into allegations of child molestation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana says a 5-year-old girl was playing with a friend at Steven Danford’s apartment in June 2020 when she was molested.
The sentencing memorandum filed in the case against Danford states that in a forensic investigation, the girl reported that she and her friend were taking turns getting “horsey” rides from Danford. When it was her turn, Danford took her into a bedroom and molested her.
It was only when she returned to her grandparent’s house that she disclosed the abuse. The document states that the girl also told investigators that the sexual abuse happened on multiple occasions.
A few months later, Danford’s former landlord was cleaning the apartment when she discovered a piece of evidence that would move the investigation from child molestation to child exploitation.
In the apartment, the landlord found cable equipment and a flash drive. While reviewing the contents of the flash drive, the document states that officers found three video files showing the 5-year-old girl. In one of the files, the girl was depicted in an indecent manner.
The document states the investigation eventually uncovered two additional files showing another young girl being sexually exploited by Danford. The girl, who appeared to be between the ages of 9 and 11, was also depicted in an indecent manner.
During a forensic investigation, the document states that the girl disclosed that Danford would tell her to undress before he performed “massages” on her. During these “massages” she would play on her phone and try to ignore what was happening.
The document states the girl explained that she didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because he told her not to. She complied because she didn’t want to be yelled at.
The girl’s mother also told investigators about another disturbing incident involving Danford and the girl. The document states the mother said she came home early to find Danford in her daughter’s room standing behind her pretending to engage in a sexual act while fully clothed.
The woman told investigators that when she confronted him, he gaslit her by calling her a pervert for thinking that he was sexually attracted to the girl.
The office also said Danford was previously convicted of third-degree assault of a child in Missouri. The document states this assault happened when Danford was watching a girl while her mother was out of town.
The document states Danford made the 8-year-old girl uncomfortable so she went to the restroom. When she returned, he asked her to sit on his lap and called her “beautiful,”
“pretty” and “sexy.” She got uncomfortable again and went back to the bathroom. He was charged after the girl returned to her father’s house and disclosed his behavior.
The sentencing memorandum states the three events depict an escalation in predatory behavior, with Danford using the persona of a doting father to gain the caregiver’s trust so he could have unfettered access to the victims.
The Defendant’s conduct is evil and his escalation over the preceding decade makesGovernment’s Sentencing Memorandum in the case against Steven Danford
him particularly dangerous.
As part of his sentence, the federal judge ordered that Danford be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 25 years following his release from federal prison. Danford must also register as sex offender wherever he lives, works, or goes to school, as required by law.