Mother of Sheriff's deputy charged with producing child pornography speaks out
MILWAUKEE - "I guess with any mother, it's hard to believe."
Hard for Carole Wentzel to fathom that her sheriff's deputy son, Sgt. Phil Wentzel, is sitting in jail.
Wentzel is charged with producing child porn and is being held in Waukesha County Jail.
He's scheduled for a preliminary hearing in federal court on Wednesday, May 9.
According to federal court documents, Wentzel snapped pornographic photos of at least three young girls while they were sleeping and/or drugged.
FBI investigators say Wentzel took the photos inside his camper at a Fond Du Lac county campground where he's had a permanent spot since 2008.
Over the course of two years, investigators say Wentzel produced child porn, trading his material with other offenders around the country.
His mother, Carole, stayed in a nearby camper at the same campground nearly all of last summer. She said there was nothing that raised red flags.
"Nothing set the alarms off. You know about the particular problem he was arrested for," Carole said in reference to the child porn charges.
She told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Keller Russell she could see the tension between her son, Phil, and his soon to be ex-wife, but that's it.
"And I thought those were the main problems. I didn't realize there were other things involved," said Carole Wentzel.
She said he seemed to be an engaged father and family man for the most part, showing no signs of trouble.
"I wish I could say something different. Up until this point I thought he was a good man," said Carole.
A man his mom insists would be the first to lend a helping hand and often did so for campground neighbors.
"The woman in the trailer next to theirs is in her 80's. He did her lawn. He cleaned up her area for her. If anything happened in her trailer he went over and repaired it."
Carole admits the allegations her son was producing child porn deeply concern her.
"I had hoped that you know, that if he was having problems of any kind that he would tell me and I certainly would pay for any kind of counseling."
While she hopes the information the FBI has on her son is wrong, Carole said she's preparing for the worst.
"I just see him as a good guy and boy, ya know, I would hope this was a mistake you know but here again if the FBI becomes involved you begin to wonder what is all going on."
If Phil Wentzel is guilty, his mother said he will have to pay the price.
But when she spoke to him by phone Friday, her message to him was one of support.
"I was just trying to break the ice, to let him know that ya know, no matter what he had done or if he was guilty of something, it didn't mean that I wasn't going to love him and to stick by him."
Carole politely declined to discuss the specifics of the conversation but said she asked Phil "the important questions" and described him as shaken by the fact he'd been arrested. He told her he thought life was back on the right track following the failure of his marriage.
"He thought all his problems were now behind him."