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June 18, 2021

AG Lynn Fitch announces child exploitation conviction and sentencings

Therese Apel

In a release Friday afternoon, Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced a conviction and two sentencings in child exploitation cases in Warren, Rankin, and Hancock Counties.

“I am putting the full resources of this office behind our fight to protect children from vicious predators,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “I commend the hard-working investigators and prosecutors in my Cyber Crime Division for their work to get child predators offline and away from our children.”

Robert Donald Ehrhardt, III, 40, was arrested by investigators with the Cyber Crime Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and indicted by a Rankin County grand jury on five counts of Exploitation of a Child. Following a four-day jury trial in Rankin County, Mississippi, Ehrhardt was found guilty yesterday of all five counts by Rankin County Circuit Judge Bradley Mills. Ehrhardt has been remanded to the custody of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department where he will await sentencing on his convictions.

This case originated with 28 CyberTips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reporting that an individual had uploaded child sexual abuse images using a Skype account. Pursuant to the execution of a search warrant, investigators recovered numerous digital devices from the defendant’s home which revealed the possession of large amounts of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) contained on five different devices in his home.

In addition to the successful prosecution of Ehrhardt, the Attorney General’s Office provided support for two other successful prosecutions in serious child abuse cases in Mississippi in the past week.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Cyber Crime Division provided expert forensic testimony in support of District Attorney Richard “Ricky” Smith’s prosecution of Raymond Friley, Jr., 54, for one count of felony child abuse in the Circuit Court of Warren County, Mississippi. Forensic examination discovered images and videos of child abuse of an infant child by the defendant.

Forensic evidence further showed the serial number of a camera owned by the defendant captured both the images of abuse of the infant child along with self-made images of the defendant. After deliberations, a Warren County jury returned a guilty verdict. Judge Toni Walker Terrett presided over the trial and immediately sentenced the defendant to life in prison. Friley was previously convicted in 2001 of child molestation and was also a registered sex offender.

On Friday, June 11, 2021, following a five-day trial in Hancock County Circuit Court, Harry Lynn Trest, 77, was found guilty of four counts of sexual battery and four counts of touching a child for lustful purposes. The Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division provided expert forensic testimony in support of District Attorney Crosby Parker’s case. Following forensic examination of the defendant’s mobile phone and computer, forensic experts were able to corroborate the victim’s statements based on images found on the defendant’s devices and relevant text messages from the defendant to others following the victim’s disclosure.

Judge Christopher Schmidt presided over the trial and immediately sentenced the defendant to 45 years in prison without the possibility of parole or early release.

“I am proud to partner with District Attorneys, like Ricky Smith and Crosby Parker, in bringing justice to victims of these heinous crimes,” said Fitch. The Cyber Crime Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office houses the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and is tasked with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting child exploitation crimes

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