On May 31, 2103, a joint investigation between the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office along with the Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE) was advanced with the execution of a search warrant at 4595 Braxton Road, Grifton, NC.
The Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Wilmington, NC Field Office of DHS-ICE with information regarding the exploitation of minors through via the sharing of child pornography over the internet. DHS-ICE typically initiates an investigation when persons post illegal information and pictures via the internet because they then become “international commerce” that can be viewed outside of the United States in other countries.
Based upon information gathered by DHS-ICE investigators, the IP address that was being used by the suspect was located at 4595 Braxton Road in Grifton. DHS-ICE had obtained evidence through the internet that a juvenile was being exploited which involved child nudity. This information led to a search warrant for the Lenoir County residence on Braxton Road in an effort to gather further evidence and identify the suspect in the case.
Upon execution of the search warrant, a suspect was immediately identified as the male homeowner who lived at the residence. The suspect, Thomas Andrew Taylor, Sr. was not present when the search warrant was executed, but was contacted after the identification was confirmed. It was also discovered that Taylor was a Firefighter with the Kinston Department of Public Safety and a sworn reserve deputy with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, while searching the residence, computers were examined by computer forensics investigators and they discovered Taylor had recorded footage of a victim who was being exploited utilizing the internet. It is believed that the victim had no knowledge of the recordings.
Investigators contacted Taylor, who was at this work in Kinston and asked him to return to his residence. Taylor, in an attempt to destroy any evidence, threw his laptop computer into a creek off Hwy. 58 North in Kinston on the way home. With assistance from equipment provided by Hugo Fire & Rescue, the computer was recovered and is being processed for evidence by the DHS-ICE.
Sheriff Chris Hill said “while Taylor is innocent until proven guilty, it still disappoints me that someone who is in a position of trust can put themselves into this type of situation. It is an embarrassment to both firefighters and law enforcement. Regardless, my deputies and I have a job to do, and the people of Lenoir County expect me and all other law enforcement to carry it out regardless of race, age, sex, or position within the community.”
Taylor has been charged with Possessing Photograph Image Device for Peeping and Secretly Using/Installing Photographic Image Device for Peeping, both of which are felonies. Taylor is currently confined in the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center under a $35,000 secured bond. More charges are likely to be forthcoming on the state and federal level as the investigation evolves.
Please contact Major Ryan Dawson at 252-559-6101 or by email at [email protected] with any questions.