An Alabama couple was sentenced to 2,340 years in prison for their role in child pornography and prostitution.
Patricia and Matthew Ayers of Florence, Alabama, were sentenced to more than 2,300 years in prison for producing and distributing lewd photos of a child in their custody, according to the FBI. Patricia was sentenced to 1,590 years, and Matthew received 750 years in prison.
"It's very disturbing just to think that something like that could happen to a child here in our area," Investigator Richard Richey told WHNT. Richey was among the team that discovered the initial images, and unearthed more when the Ayers' personal hard drives and computers were searched.
The two pleaded guilty of producing 53 pornographic images of a child in their custody, with some of the photos depicting Patricia and Matthew engaged in sexual activity with the child while the other photographed. The abuse occurred between 2010 and 2013, when the child was aged 6 through 9 years old.
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"I have been on the bench since 1998, and this is the worst case I have personally dealt with, including murders," presiding Judge Coogler told the defendants, according to a statement of the case produced by the United States Department of Justice. "You robbed this child of her childhood and her soul, and a maximum sentence is the only sentence appropriate."
Patricia and Matthew both pleaded guilty to photographing the child in "lewd and lascivious" poses, as well as emailing a Texas man the photographs. They also told the man that they would bring the child to Texas for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts.
"The stern sentences imposed on this couple today reflect the abhorrent nature of their abuse and exploitation of a young child in their care,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
"Children must be protected from sexual exploitation, and we remain committed to prosecuting child pornography cases. I thank the FBI for its diligent work on this disturbing case."
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The FBI agents who helped prosecute the couple were in court for sentencing.
"The crimes the Ayers have admitted to are disturbing, inexcusable and sickening," FBI Special Agent Richard D. Schwein said. "The Internet has a depraved and dark side which the Ayers lived in, bringing a child for whom they were responsible with them."
"I am proud of the work of the FBI on this case, and I applaud the sentences handed down today, as the Ayers' will spend the rest of their natural lives behind prison bars," he said.