Purdin Convicted of 25 Counts of Possession of Obscene Matter
On Wednesday, a Covington County jury, made up of seven men and five women, found Tracy Owen Purdin, 50, guilty of 25 counts of Possession of Obscene Matter. Presiding Circuit Judge Lex Short presided over the case. The State was represented at trial by Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter.
In the spring of 2018, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Agent Robert Thompson was assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). He was investigating online sharing of child pornography and determined that child pornography was being shared from an IP address at a residence on Harmony Church Road, where Purdin and his brother Dan Purdin lived. Agent Thompson’s investigative tools downloaded child pornography being shared by that IP address. He obtained a search warrant for the residence.
When ALEA agents executed the search warrant on May 31, 2018, Agent Thompson interviewed both Purdin and his brother Dan, who were there at the home. Purdin asked Agent Thompson several questions attempting to determine “what would happen if he admitted and what would happen if he didn’t.” When he asked “Am I going to jail today,” Agent Thompson said he would go to jail if the agents found he was “just loaded with” child pornography. Purdin then told Agent Thompson, “Well, you’re going to want to take me, and Dan didn’t have anything to do with this.”
ALEA agents took the evidence they seized from Purdin’s bedroom to Auburn Police Detective Gavin Compton, who forensically examined it. Detective Compton found that four hard drives taken from Purdin’s bedroom, including one taken from his desktop computer, contained child pornography. He located 2,827 child pornography pictures and 1,986 child pornography videos, as well as Word documents which contained Purdin’s personal information. His examination revealed that the child pornography pictures and videos had been downloaded using torrent clients, which is software used to share data, and that they had been downloaded over a period of several years. He found browser histories with searches for terms commonly used by people looking for child pornography. Detective Compton testified that the downloaded pictures and videos had been last viewed days before the search warrant was executed.
Detective Compton explained that he submits child pornography he has found to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an agency which works to locate and identify child victims. Of the 25 pictures and videos for which Purdin was charged, Detective Compton testified that nine contained children who have already been identified. Most of the children in the pictures and videos appeared to be eight years old or younger.
Teresa Tomlinson testified that she lived in the residence with Purdin and Dan in 2018. She testified that the desktop computer was Purdin’s “personal computer” and that no one else used it except under his supervision. She said that Purdin had owned that computer since she met him in 2011 or 2012.
Court records indicate that Purdin has prior convictions for Using Child in Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct, Sexual Abuse I, and two counts of Sodomy III, out of Yamhill County, Oregon.
After the jury’s verdict, Jeter said, “This was a difficult case, not because of the evidence – which was solid – but because of the nature of the crime. The jury had to see some horrific evidence which involved very young children, and those kinds of images stay with you. You don’t forget the children. Special Victims Task Forces, like ICAC, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children work daily to find every child in every picture or video, to identify them, and to rescue them. Even after the children have been rescued and are no longer being actively sexually abused, though, their images are still out there. They are still available for pedophiles to download and share, and they will remain available as long as there is a market for child pornography.”
Jeter also thanked everyone involved in this case. “ICAC does a great job of working internet crimes against children, and Detective Compton has the ability not only to examine and find the evidence but to explain it where non-computer people, like me, can understand. Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens and Investigators Nickey Carnley and Brett Holmes put in a lot of work, mostly behind the scenes, to present this case to the jury. We appreciate, too, the jury for their service and for their careful deliberation,” she added.
Purdin’s sentencing hearing is set for December 17, 2020. Possession of Obscene Matter is a Class C felony, and because Purdin has four prior felony convictions, he faces a sentencing range of fifteen years up to life imprisonment for each conviction. District Attorney Walt Merrell noted, “Because of the rules of evidence, we couldn’t make the jurors aware of Purdin’s prior convictions for child sex crimes, but they can be considered by the judge for sentencing purposes. Purdin is a predator, and we will ask Judge Short to sentence him to life imprisonment for each of the 25 convictions.” Purdin remains in the custody of the Covington County Jail pending his sentencing hearing.