Fitness Photographer’s Fiancee Arrested in Child Sex Case

July 10, 2008, 6:04 PM PDT

Fitness Photographer's Fiancee Arrested in Child Sex Case NEWPORT BEACH — A woman accused of helping her former fiance — well-known “physique” photographer Jason Ellis — carry on an illicit sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, surrendered today to Newport Beach police.

Michelle Hecker, 31, is charged as an aider and abetter on three counts of lewd acts and one count each of statutory rape, oral copulation of a minor and digital penetration of a minor, said Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

She appeared this afternoon in a Newport Beach courtroom, where court Commissioner Gregory Jones set her bail at $50,000.

Her arraignment was postponed to July 18, the same day that Ellis, 33, will return to court to enter a plea to the charges, a court clerk said.

Hecker’s attorney, Ron MacGregor, could not be reached for comment.

Authorities described Ellis and Hecker as engaged, but KCAL9 reported the engagement was broken off more than two months ago, although they continued to live together.

The girl told authorities she was in love with Ellis, prosecutors said.

Hecker allegedly gained the trust of the parents of the girl, who was 14 years old when the two met.

After he met the victim, Ellis began grooming her for a sexual relationship, Emami said.

Between August 2007 and June, Ellis took the girl on dates to movies and dinner, kissing and touching her in public, Emami said.

Hecker allegedly told the girl’s parents that she and the girl were going horseback riding, allowing the girl to meet and spend time alone with Ellis, prosecutors said.

To hide what the two were doing, Hecker allegedly had the girl wear riding clothes when she picked her up or dropped her off, Emami said. The parents eventually became suspicious and had a private investigator follow them, Emami said.

When Ellis learned he was wanted in the case, he fled but was arrested 10 days later.

Ellis, whose photos have appeared on the covers of magazines such as Elle and Muscle & Fitness, was in jail on $100,000 bail.