MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala.- Two Marshall County residents are charged with production of child pornography, among other charges.
The Boaz Police Department got reports in October that Douglas Hamilton and his live-in girlfriend Misty Priest, had been producing child pornography.
“These are the types of cases that no police officer or investigator ever wants to have to work, but unfortunately they’re all too common,” said Boaz Police Chief Josh Gaskin.
While serving a search warrant, officers said they found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and seized several electronic devices.
“Over 22 devices including cell phones, laptops, SD cards, hidden cameras, that sort of thing,” said 27th Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bray.
Hamilton and Priest were arrested on the drug and paraphernalia charges and later released. The recovered devices were handed over to the Marshall County Major Crime Unit Digital Forensic Lab in the basement of the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville.
Going through those devices to confirm the production of child pornography took a while.
“They take a lot longer than what we would like but we want to be really intentional with everything we do,” said Gaskin. “We don’t want to leave any stone unturned. We want to make sure it’s all accurate and correct.”
Bray told WHNT News 19 the Marshall County Major Crime Unit Digital Forensic Lab uses a program to extract information from the devices.
“They can go in there and look at all the data. They can look at the metadata to see where it came from, the file path that the image took to get onto that device or the videos took to get onto that device,” Bray said. “You can also see things such as text messages, any sort of communications, websites people have visited.”
Gaskin said after the lab sorted through the evidence, there was enough to arrest the couple. Tuesday morning, investigators went to their home.
Priest was handcuffed willingly, but Hamilton was not there. A juvenile in their custody was also not there.
“That’s when the investigators really stepped things up to the next level,” Gaskin said. “We really wanted to make sure child was found and the child was safe.”
Gaskin said his department received an anonymous tip that Hamilton and the child were at a hotel in Collinsville. Police responded to the unidentified hotel and arrested Hamilton.
Bray said the lab is a huge asset to the county. She added many cases could not be made without it.
“We run phones through the digital crime lab on all sorts of crimes from thefts to drug cases to any other crime you can think about because almost every crime we deal with these days has some sort of digital element to it,” said Bray.
The production of child pornography is a class A felony and a class A sex offense involving a child. The punishment is a minimum of 20 years to life in prison with no chance of probation.
Hamilton’s kidnapping charge comes with a range of 10 to 99 years in prison.
Hamilton’s mother, Nancy Peavy, is facing charges of hindering prosecution for allegedly providing false statements to investigators while they searched for Hamilton and the juvenile.