Eagle Point, Ore. -- 43-year-old Christopher Keith Hammer, of Eagle Point, is the man who will spend the next 37-years in prison for producing child pornography after a judged handed down the sentence on Monday.
According to the Department of Justice, Hammer was tracked down through a nationwide FBI child pornography investigation that revealed he distributed child porn from an e-mail account linked to Hammer's home.
Hammer's neighbor Ben Shelton remembers the day police showed up next door to arrest Hammer. It happened about a year ago, but the memory is still fresh in Shelton's memory.
"They were raiding his house getting all his computer equipment," recalled Shelton.
"As far as I knew he seemed like a nice guy," he said.
What court documents say about the abuse
However, according to court documents, Hammer took sexually explicit pictures of a 4-year-old relative, shared them online, encouraged others to sexually abuse their own children, and expressed a desire to sexually exploit other children.
"Here I am a family of four and this crap [happens] right next door and you don't even know. It's sad," said Shelton.
"These pictures represent the worst type of child sex offender -- one who not only sexually exploits children, but also documents and shares his experiences with others, and encourages others to do the same," said U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall.
Investigators said they found more than 5,000 pictures and nearly 200 videos of child porn on Hammer's cell phones and e-mail accounts.
According to the Department of Justice, Hammer has a track record. Officials at the DOJ said in 1994, Hammer sexually abused a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old relative in California. It resulted in two felony convictions for Lewd and Lascivious Acts Upon a Child Under 14.
Local law enforcement task force says more than half of cases deal with child sex abuse
Lieutenant Mike Anderson is part of the Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force that investigated the abuse. While he couldn't speak to the case specifically, he said the task force works on several cases a day involving child porn.
"It occurs a lot more often than people want to admit," said Anderson.
According to Anderson, of the roughly 240 cases the task force investigated last year, between 60%-70% dealt with child exploitation.
"We're trying to stay on top of it. It's a challenge it really is."
Technology making things more difficult
The enormous scope of the World Wide Web doesn't help.
"Now that technology has really come into everybody's life, the internet being not only on phones and computers. Walking down the street you can get wireless access points. Years ago we didn't have that access so it wasn't very prolific," said Anderson.
He said not that the internet is more readily available, the task force is constantly getting cases dealing with child porn.
In addition, it's not just the increased access that has officials shaking their heads.
"Technology has really ramped up the trauma that these children suffer," said Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director at the Children's Advocacy Center of Jackson County.
She said once sexually graphic pictures are distributed on the internet, they're hard to get rid of.
"It's there always," she said.
We're told the four-year-old involved in the case is getting the help they need.
Signs to look out for
According to Pitzen, the signs of abuse are trauma. Here are a few things to look out for.
- Interruption in a child's sleep pattern: Either they're sleeping too much or too little.
- Kids frequently having nightmares
- Differences in a child's appetite: Either they're eating too much or not enough.
- A child regressing in their behaviors: An example is if they're potty trained, then all of a sudden one day they're not.
- Signs to look out for in adults: if there's someone who wants to spend more time with a child than their parents, think about the motivation behind it.
Pitzen said if anyone is suspicious and feel that the child is being harmed, they should pick up the phone and call law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. Another option is to have a conversation with the child.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Jackson County offers a child abuse prevention program called "Darkness to Light." It occurs once a month. Visit the CAC's website for details: http://www.cacjc.org/