Ga. cell phone worker finds child porn

Man had come into Watkinsville store for phone assistance

 WATKINSVILLE, Ga.  - An Oconee County man was jailed on child pornography charges after a clerk at a cell phone store noticed a photo of a naked child stored on his phone, sheriff's deputies testified at a preliminary hearing Friday.

 Thomas Heath King, 43, needed help paying his phone bill and handed his cell phone to a clerk, sheriff's investigator Jason Higgins testified in Oconee County Magistrate Court.

"That's when (the clerk) saw a picture of a naked child," Higgins said.

King faces two counts of violating the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Act, two counts of computerized pornography and charges of child molestation and sexual battery against a child under the age of 16.

Chief Magistrate Court Judge Eric Norris ruled that there was enough evidence to bring all the charges leveled against King to a grand jury for possible indictment.

The cell phone clerk contacted the sheriff's office July 16 after King left the store, and deputies obtained a search warrant to confiscate King's phone, Higgins testified.

When authorities confirmed that the phone contained images of nude children in sexual poses, deputies searched King's house and confiscated two computer hard drives, computer discs and other electronic hardware, Higgins said.

Deputies identified the two children on King's phone as Oconee County residents - an 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy - because the cell phone store clerk knew at least one of them, Oconee County sheriff's Cpl. Lisa Price testified.

"It was easy to recognize the children from the pictures on the cell phone," Price said.

King's attorney, Christopher Blanchard, disputed the molestation charges during the hearing and asked Norris to dismiss them.

The 8-year-old child didn't say King touched her until a second interview with a forensic investigator - an interview that was set up after the child's mother contacted deputies, Blanchard said.

It's possible the child wasn't comfortable enough in the first interview to reveal King touched her, argued Assistant District Attorney James Chafin.

The children's parents knew King and said he was a family friend who would help out with household tasks and allow the children to swim at his house, Higgins testified.

In their search, investigators found photos of other children in sexual poses or engaged in sexual acts with adults on King's computer, but none showed the local children, he said.

King did not appear in the images of the naked children found on his cell phone, he said.

The sheriff's office contacted the FBI, which also is investigating, Higgins said.

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