Couple Sentenced in Child Exploitation Case
BIRMINGHAM -- A federal judge yesterday sentenced a Prattville man and a Shelby County woman on child exploitation charges, announced Northern District of Alabama United States Attorney Jay E. Town, Middle District of Alabama United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., 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 2 life sentences to run consecutively 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.
“This sentence very clearly reflects the seriousness of these child predator’s disgusting crimes,” Town said. “Our justice system will not tolerate these criminals who prey on innocent children. They will now occupy bed space that has been reserved for them in a federal prison.”
“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. “It is important to understand that the production of child pornography is simply the filming of child rape.”
The charges originated from numerous criminal events that occurred in the Northern District of Alabama and in the Middle District of Alabama. Cases in both districts were consolidated for sentencing in the Northern District.
Police in California found Hooks and Morris living in a desert area on the southern tip of the state after locating a red Mitsubishi Montero with an Alabama license plate there, according to a May 4, 2018, federal criminal complaint and arrest affidavit issued for Hooks in the Northern District of Alabama. According to the affidavit, the red Mitsubishi was registered to Morris and police were searching for it because security cameras at a Walmart in Brawley, California, caught her driving it on March 30, 2018, when security officers at the store reported Morris attempting to film two young girls in a bathroom stall.
According to court documents, as a result of further investigation, child pornographic images 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 sexual exploitation of 2 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.
HSI Birmingham investigated the case, along 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, Alabaster Police Department, AL, which Assistant United States Attorney R. Leann White, Northern District of Alabama and Assistant United States Attorneys Hollie Reed and Russell Duraski, Middle District of Alabama prosecuted.