Hoke County animal rescue owner arrested on 114 child pornography charges

February 10, 2017 GMT

The Hoke County man who owned an animal rescue where 600 animals were seized last year was arrested Thursday on more than 100 child pornography charges.

Stephen Spear, 69, of 400 Fulford McMillian Road, Raeford, was charged with 57 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and 57 counts of third-degree exploitation of a minor, according to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office. He was jailed under a $228,000 bond.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said investigators found child pornography on two computers confiscated during the animal cruelty raid on the property in Jan. 2016. They do not believe any of the children in the photos are from the local area.

“Further investigation brought us to his computer. Documents that show he was involved in the sexual exploitation of these children,” Peterkin said.

Cape. David Newton said the images were graphic.

“Sex acts with adults, sex acts on each other. There were some with animals. It was pretty bad,” he said.

Spear was previously charged in 2009 with 18 other counts of second- and third-degree exploitation of a minor while he was a teacher at Fayetteville Technical Community College, according to previous reports.

Peterkin said the county monitors registered sex offenders closely, but Spear was not a registered offender, even after his 2009 arrest.

“It troubles me that this guy is still lurking,” Peterkin said. “He is still out there. He has a problem. We need to shut him down.”

Spear and his wife, Linden Spear, owned The Haven - Friends For Life shelter near Raeford. The shelter was raided by authorities in Jan. 2016 after receiving a complaint about animal neglect. More than 300 dogs, 250 cats, 40 horses and some farm animals were seized.

The owners were charged with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of felony possession of a controlled substance. The investigation showed more than 700 animals has been mistreated, according to the sheriff’s office.

Many of the seized animals were adopted.