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Carpeting a vacant apartment, they stumbled on some memory cards — and a dirty secret, prosecutors say

A Beaumont, Texas man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after carpet installers uncovered memory cards with child porn at his old apartment.
A Beaumont, Texas man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after carpet installers uncovered memory cards with child porn at his old apartment. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

Carpet installers from Porter’s Flooring America arrived at the Hyde Park West apartments in Beaumont, Texas planning to put new flooring in one of the units.

But as they started carpeting a bedroom in the vacant apartment on June 5, 2013, workers found something odd tucked away at the top of a door frame. There were three SD cards that belonged in a camera — and it looked like they had been hidden in the room, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.

The carpet installers checked to see what was on the memory cards, and immediately realized they needed to call Beaumont police: The memory cards were full of what the workers believed to be child pornography, the district attorney’s office wrote.

Four years later, Charles Henry Hawkins, 57, was convicted on Friday for possessing child pornography, a third-degree felony, according to the district attorney. It was a case that only began to unravel when carpet installers happened upon the memory cards containing pictures of child pornography, and of an adult man who police would eventually identify as Hawkins.

The cards contained 97 images of child pornography, prosecutors say, as well as 222 images of child erotica. Those images showed a girl younger than 10 engaging in sex with an adult man, according to KBMT.

When police looked at old lease documents for the unit, they discovered that Hawkins had once lived there. Police were also able to prove, using digital forensics, that the cards were last accessed during the time period when Hawkins was leasing the unit, prosecutors said.

“I first want to thank the jury for their verdict,” said Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Kim Pipkin in a statement Friday. “Nobody wants to show up for jury duty and have to look at child pornography, but they took their duty very seriously and saw that justice was done.”

Hawkins was previously convicted in 1989 for rape, attempted buggery, aggravated burglary and robbery — but because those convictions were outside the U.S., prosecutors said, they could not be used to lengthen his sentence.

The punishment for the crime Hawkins was convicted of ranges from 2 to 10 years behind bars, and a fine of up to $10,000, according to prosecutors. Hawkins received the maximum sentence and fine.

Hawkins will have to register as a sex offender for life, prosecutors said.

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