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Press Release

Alabama Couple Sentenced in Child Exploitation Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama – On Tuesday, August 27, 2019, a federal judge sentenced a Prattville man and a Shelby County woman on child exploitation charges, announced Middle District of Alabama United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., Northern District of Alabama United States Attorney Jay E. Town, and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge for Alabama Nick S. Annan.

United States District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced Kenneth Earl Hooks, 36, of Prattville, to 120 years and two life sentences, and Sarah Pauline Morris, 28, of Shelby County, to 197 months for producing child pornography and enticing a young child to engage in sexual activity for the purpose of creating obscene images. Hooks pled guilty to these charges in February 2019, and also to the additional charge of transportation of a minor for sexual purposes. Morris pled guilty in March 2019. There is no parole in the federal system.

The charges originated from numerous criminal events that occurred in the Middle District of Alabama and in the Northern District of Alabama. Cases in both districts were consolidated for sentencing in the Northern District. 

According to a May 4, 2018, federal criminal complaint and arrest affidavit issued for Hooks, police found Hooks and Morris living in a desert area in the southern tip California after locating a red Mitsubishi Montero with an Alabama license plate. The red Mitsubishi was registered to Morris and police were searching for it because security cameras at a Walmart in Brawley, California, showed her driving it on March 30, 2018, after security officers at the store reported Morris attempting to film two young girls in a bathroom stall.

As a result of further investigation, images of child pornography were discovered on a laptop that had been subjected to forensic examination by law enforcement officers in Imperial County, California. On or about April 27, 2018, agents from the Department of Homeland Security in Birmingham received these images which depicted the sexual exploitation of two prepubescent children and a teenage female under the age of 18 by Hooks in Alabama. During the investigation, agents learned that Hooks had transported the teenage female victim from Mississippi to Alabama with the intent of sexually assaulting her and recording it on video. 

“Exploiting children is a despicable crime that is carried out by depraved individuals,” stated U.S. Attorney Franklin. “Protecting the young and innocent is a priority in my office. I am proud of the hard work and diligence of every agency involved in bringing these two to justice, and I hope that these significant sentences serve as a stark warning to anyone who preys on children.”

“The sentencing of Hooks and Morris brings justice to two serial offenders who preyed on societies most vulnerable,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Nick S. Annan. “Their self-described ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ crime spree included depraved acts of abuse and violence and would have undoubtedly continued without fantastic case work of the agents involved in this investigation.”

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Birmingham investigated the case, with the assistance of HSI Calexico, CA; HSI Las Cruces, NM; HSI El Paso, TX; Brawley Police Department, CA; Imperial County California District Attorney’s Office; U.S. Marshals Service Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force, El Centro Division, CA; Chilton County Alabama Sheriff’s Office, and the Alabaster Police Department, AL.

Assistant United States Attorneys Hollie Reed and Russell Duraski, of the Middle District of Alabama, and Assistant United States Attorney R. Leann White, of the Northern District of Alabama prosecuted the case.

Updated September 3, 2019

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