Child porn suspect to judge: 'It's not like I was murdering someone'

RAEFORD, N.C. -- The owner of a Hoke County animal shelter accused of animal cruelty and facing child pornography charges pleaded for mercy in court Friday.

"It's not like I was murdering someone," Stephen Joseph Spear said.

Spear was escorted into a Hoke County courtroom by a deputy and wasted no time asking for a bond reduction once he took his seat.

Instead, District Court Judge Chris Rhue raised the 69-year-old's bond from $228,000 to $1 million, citing his previous child porn charges in Cumberland County.

Stephen Joseph Spear

image courtesy Hoke County Sheriff's Office

The judge took his time weighing the request, explaining the severity of Spear's current charges.

RELATED: Hoke County animal shelter owner charged with child pornography

He is charged with 110 counts of possession child porn after detectives found images of children involved in sexual activity on his computer during their investigation of alleged animal cruelty.

In January, 2016, authorities raided The Haven-Friends for Life no-kill shelter and removed about 600 animals following complaints about neglect.


Investigators said they found at least 15 dead dogs in scattered burial sites throughout the shelter property.


Spear and his wife were charged with three counts of felony possession of controlled substance and four counts of cruelty to animals.

This isn't the first time Spear has faced child porn charges. In 2009, he was charged with 18 counts of child pornography while he was a teacher at Fayetteville Tech. He agreed to a plea deal and was not required to register as a sex offender in that case.

Meanwhile, Judge Rhue ordered Spear to have no contact with children other than family. He's also prohibited from using the internet unless it's for legal research.

If convicted, Spears could spend the rest of his life behind bars. His next court date is set for March 1.

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