WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Search warrants show an ex-girlfriend says she also found photos of naked girls about a decade ago on a computer belonging to a former cop accused of leading about a decade ago.
Now that claim has sparked an investigation in another law enforcement agency.
The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office says it has launched an administrative investigation after Brunswick County investigators interviewed a Sampson County deputy about former Leland cop Hank Smith.
The woman, who started working for the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office in October 2001, dated Smith for three years about a decade ago. She told investigators earlier this month she found incestuous videos and several pictures of young girls in provocative positions on Smith’s computer when they dated.
Sampson County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pope says Smith and the deputy were in a volatile relationship, and the woman feared for her life. That’s why we’ve chosen not to use her name at this time.
“She was fearful for her personal safety based upon things that had occurred in the relationship and things that were communicated,” Pope said in a phone interview with WWAY.
Pope says when the woman found the graphic images, she tried to turn them in, but she was too late.
“Before she was able to do that, to produce it to anyone, the material was moved or destroyed where she could no longer locate it,” Pope said.
Pope says that’s why the woman never reported the crime.
“She was fearful that if she made allegations against a fellow officer without any type of evidence to support her claim that there would be retribution,” he said.
Pope says as soon as the department found out earlier this month about the deputy’s involvement in the Smith investigation, it launched an investigation.
“We have an administrative investigation underway,” Pope said, “to one identify exactly what did occur, and to try to identify ways to prevent similar things from happening down the road.”
Pope says the woman does not want to talk to anyone for fear smith might come after her if he gets out of jail. She is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
As for Smith, a Brunswick County grand jury yesterday indicted him on several charges connected to the high-speed chase he’s accused of leading after investigators tried to serve him with domestic violence warrants. He remains in a South Carolina jail, where he faces even more charges for the chase.
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