VICKSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Vicksburg homes were raided and a couple was arrested, accused of sexually abusing children and producing and sharing child porn, court records show.
The raids happened Thursday just a block away from each other — one at a home on Ellery Grove Court off of Ives Mill Lane and one on Gardner Pond Lane off the same road in Vicksburg.
Neighbor Dawn Bear says it happened so fast.
“I looked out and I saw the FBI vehicle in my yard… right up here in the front of the house. I was like, ‘What is going on?'” Bear recalled. “I noticed there were a lot of vehicles, (given) the traffic.”
They stemmed from a complaint filed in federal court alleging 47-year-old Virgil Chandler Knowles III and 35-year-old Samantha Jean Batts sexually abused two family members, neither older than 10.
Knowles used to be a custodian and maintenance employee at Vicksburg Community Schools, but had not worked there since 2018, a release from the district said.
On Wednesday, undercover federal agents discovered Knowles in a private online chat room, where he admitted he abused the children. He also told undercover agents that Batts said she wanted to get “something” to make one of the victims sleep, the complaint says. It says Knowles shared several explicit photos with the agent, some featuring Batts.
He admitted to agents on the chat room that he was home alone smoking meth and marijuana. He also shared his Snapchat information and sent more photos using the app.
On Thursday, the FBI sent an emergency disclosure request to Snapchat, seeking subscriber information. The app shared the telephone number, IP address and location of Knowles. That pointed to the home on Gardner Pond Lane.
Agents used information on Facebook, including matching jewelry in photos of Batts with jewelry seen in the explicit images, to confirm that Batts is Knowles’ girlfriend. Address records showed that she lived on Ellery Grove Court, a house behind the location on Gardner Pond Lane. A judge granted a warrant for the FBI to raid the two addresses.
Before her Ring system recorded the raids, Bear says the camera had already captured her neighbor’s attention.
“The guy came over to my house at like 1, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning and knocked on my door. I was freaking out. I was like, ‘What does he want?’ Come to find out, he left a note on my door and was complaining about the camera light,” Bear said.
According to Bear, those who live and frequent the house were usually loud late at night and early in the morning. She also said over time, she counted hundreds of different vehicles pulling into the driveway or out front.
“In and out, in different vehicles, but they didn’t even ever knock. They would just go up to the door and walk right in,” Bear explained. “I don’t even know who the heck lives over there, really.”
When she saw the couple arrested, Bear felt for the kids.
“That’s the thing. It is so disgusting,” Bear said.
Knowles and Batts were booked into the Kalamazoo County Jail on Friday, according to jail records.
Knowles is the son of Vicksburg Community school board president Virgil Knowles, according to a Vicksburg community school district spokesperson.
Vicksburg Community Schools Superintendent Keevin O’Neill sent out a statement on Friday evening, confirming that Virgil Chandler Knowles III used to work in the school district as a custodial and maintenance employee. However, they said he had not been employed with the district since early 2018.
The superintendent wrote that the School Board President Virgil “Skip” Knowles has not been accused of a crime or targeted by the FBI.