Matthew Norris, 28, of Jasper, has been charged with possession of child pornography, a Class C felony. He is currently being held in the Walker County Jail on a $100,000 property bond.
“A tip was called into the sheriff’s office, and we went to a residence where Mr. Norris was staying and retrieved a computer belonging to him,” Sheriff’s Investigator Sgt. Dayron Bridges said. “The computer was then turned over to our computer forensic examiner, Sgt. Tim Thomas, who recovered enough evidence that allowed us to file charges against Mr. Norris.”
Thomas said his investigation of Norris’s computer uncovered three file folders with 142 pornographic photos of children ranging in age from toddlers to 10-year-olds.
“We also recovered between 3,500 to 4,000 photos from his computer’s recycle bin,” Thomas said.
“It also appears to us that children between the ages of 2 and 6 are in Mr. Norris’ fetish range.”
Bridges said this is the third case of child pornography investigated by the sheriff’s office this year.
“Child pornography is becoming an issue in this county and Sheriff John Mark Tirey has spent thousands of dollars so we can have an on-site computer forensic lab and examiner,” Bridges said. “In the past we had to send the computers we confiscated in this type of crime to Hoover, which generally delayed our cases because things were so backed up. But now we’re able to get our results back real quick, which helps us a lot.”
Bridges said an investigation into this type of crime generally begins with a tip.
“Thanks to the tips we’ve received so far this year we’ve been able to get some of these predators off the streets,” Bridges said. “But it takes more than just a tip a lot of times for us to get inside a residence so we can collect the evidence we need to make an arrest.”
Bridges and Thomas said it helps investigators if the person who has witnessed a crime of this nature contacts the sheriff’s office the minute they see the person looking at pornographic sites or pictures.
“The quicker we get the tip the better chance we have of getting inside and getting our hands on that computer. It can be a matter of hours instead of days,” Bridges said. “But don’t get us wrong, we appreciate any tips we get because we never know where they might lead. You never know, the tip may involve something we’re already working.”
Thomas is also a member of the Birmingham Electronics Crimes Task Force, which operates out of the U.S. Secret Service Office in Birmingham.
He said tips that come into the Walker County Sheriff’s Office can also be used not only by local law enforcement, but agencies around the state and country, including those at the federal level.
“I can run a name we get through databases used by the Task Force or FBI to see if that person has been dealt with in the past, which is a big asset to us (the sheriff’s office),” Thomas said. “I also work with other counties, including Marion and Winston, assisting them with their sex abuse or child pornography cases, and I also investigate cyber crimes as well. In fact, seven out of the 10 cases I’ve worked so far this year involved sex crimes and/or child pornography, the other three involved cyber crimes, such as email scams.”
Anyone with any information regarding a possible cyber, sex abuse, or child pornography crime should contact Bridges or Thomas at the Walker County Sheriff’s Office at 205-302-6464.