MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - A family secret caught on camera. A “he said, she said” situation is one thing, but video evidence is another.
A now-19-year-old we’ll call" Sarah" hid a camera and pointed it toward her family’s bathroom.
She and her sister suspected someone living in their house was spying on them. They told their mother, who at first didn’t believe them.
“She didn’t believe us, kind of like you could destroy his life saying something like that when you don’t have any evidence,” said Sarah.
The evidence she found was her then-stepfather tiptoeing to the bathroom where her younger sister was showering. Back and forth, 15 times, even crouching down, whipping out his cellphone, trying to snap pictures under the door.
The video catches him several times looking out the window, checking to see if their mom returned home.
“As soon as I walked in that room and saw their faces, I knew, I automatically knew. I didn’t even have to watch it. I knew,” explained Sarah’s mother.
A mother now convinced it was true, confirming Sarah’s and her sister’s suspicions. Ones they had for years.
The women also say he had been beating them for years.
Sarah called 911 the same day this video was taken.
“He admitted it, he said he was sick and needs help,” said her mom.
Morgan County deputies arrested the stepfather on domestic violence charges.
What about the cellphone? The pictures? Would that not be considered child pornography? Apparently, no.
After a search warrant, deputies analyzed the cellphone and determined there were nude pictures on it.
A statement from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said, “Based on the evidence our office was able to obtain and the specifics of the child pornography law, the depiction of an individual less than 17 years of age that violates this division shall constitute a separate offense for each single visual depiction, the evidence does not support that a child pornography crime was committed."
According to investigators, the pictures they recovered were of Sarah who just happened to turn 17 two weeks before they caught him on camera, and not her younger sister who was 15 at the time, which would have resulted in a child pornography charge.
“He got nothing. He didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. I didn’t even know someone could get away for something like that,” added mom.
WAFF 48 News interviewed Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson to better understand why they could not prosecute him.
“Our limitations are found in the statutes. We don’t manufacture evidence but we don’t turn our eyes away when there is a crime,” said Anderson.
This past June, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the anti-voyeurism act into law, now officially making it a misdemeanor to take an image of the private parts of someone without a person’s consent either in public or private. It becomes a felony if the image is taken and then shared online.
This case from 2017 slips through the crack of no law in place at the time the incident occurred but there is renewed hope.
“Over the last couple of weeks we have received some potentially new evidence, I’ll call it that, so we are going to look at it again. Just to make sure we were correct in our first assessment. If we weren’t we’ll say so and we’ll move forward,” added Anderson.
“I want to see him put behind bars for what he did,” said Sarah.
“They deserve justice for what has been done to them,” said mom.
The district attorney went on to add that he will sit down with this family and review this case. He also said he’s grateful lawmakers finally passed the voyeurism law to get these kind of offenders off the streets.