As Judge L. Scott Coogler gave his verdict in October 2014, he told the North Alabama court that the crimes committed by Patricia and Matthew Ayers had been among the most heinous that he had ever encountered. Indeed, he said to the defendants, “I have been on the bench since 1998, and this is the worst case I have personally dealt with, including murders.”
His views were echoed by FBI Special Agent in Charge, Richard D. Schwein Jr, who would add in a press release, “The crimes the Ayers have admitted to are disturbing, inexcusable and sickening.” Government prosecutors had in fact requested the maximum sentences for the Ayers’ horrendous crimes.
So the couple are now destined to die behind bars. Patricia Ayers was given a total of 1,590 years in prison; her partner and co-defendant Matthew Ayers, meanwhile, was sentenced to 750 years for his actions. But what crimes could lead to such extraordinarily long sentences?
Given their nature, few people would disagree with the severity of the punishments. Specifically, what the couple pleaded guilty to was a string of charges that included the production of child abuse images and prostitution. In fact, it emerged that the twisted pair had produced more than 50 child abuse images of a minor. The victim was in their care over a three-year period from 2010 to 2013.
The horrifying images were produced while the child was aged between six and nine. They depicted the young victim being forced to engage in sexual acts with the couple.
It is believed that the minor was under the supposed parental care of the Ayres when the abuse took place. Even more disturbingly, the evil pair from Florence, Alabama, emailed images of the child to a man based in Texas. They also offered to take the child to the state so the unidentified man could rape the youngster.
Mercifully, however, the man who received the photographs declined the couple’s sick request. Instead, he turned the pictures into law enforcement officials. However, it is still unclear when the vile abuse first began.
What was clear, however, was the way in which the Ayres utilized technology to engage in their crimes. Indeed, as FBI Special Agent Schwein would elaborate in a press release, “The internet has a depraved and dark side which the Ayers lived in, bringing a child for whom they were responsible with them.”
Meanwhile, when speaking to Alabama news channel WHNT in October 2014, investigator Richard Richey told of his horror at what his team had found on the couple’s devices. “It’s very disturbing just to think that something like that could happen to a child here in our area,” he said.
Eventually, though, the Ayres both entered guilty pleas with the court. The plea agreements saw one of them admitting to taking pictures of the child while the other sexually abused the minor. Such agreements are often made in exchange for a reduced sentence.
However, their plea agreements didn’t seem to impress Judge Coogler, as he collectively gave them over 2,000 years in prison. He said that the exceptionally long sentences were appropriate, as the Ayres had stolen the youngster’s childhood and robbed her of her soul.
The terms were also deemed appropriate by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. Speaking after the verdict, she said, “The stern sentences imposed on this couple today reflect the abhorrent nature of their abuse and exploitation of a young child in their care.”
And Special Agent Schwein went on to state that he was proud of the FBI’s work on the case and happy with the sentence. “I applaud the sentences handed down today, as the Ayers will spend the rest of their natural lives behind prison bars,” he added.
Sadly, however, the Ayers case isn’t even unique. In May 2017, for example, a British couple were jailed for a string of child sex offenses. Nicholas and Joan Taylor from Northampton were jailed for a minimum of 18 years each.
The pair, both in their 40s, were sentenced at Leicester Crown Court; during their trial, the court heard how the two sexually abused children as young as 11 and got them addicted to drugs. Speaking about Nicholas Taylor, Judge Nicholas Dean QC said, “In truth, your behavior stems from a craven lack of any moral compass and your depraved appetite for drugs and sexual gratification.”
The crimes took place over a period of ten years. Astonishingly, Nicholas had actually previously appeared on British television, claiming then to be living a reformed life following previous indecency convictions. However, the couple both admitted their guilt before the trial started in February 2017.
The judge presiding over the case, moreover, branded Nicholas a monster. “I have looked to see whether you have any redeeming characteristics, whether there might be any prospect that you will ever be anything better than a monster. I see no good in you, I see no prospect of you changing,” Judge Dean explained.
Meanwhile, British detectives praised the bravery of survivors who had reported the devastating abuse. Detective Inspector Adam Pendlebury of Northamptonshire Police said, “Coming forward and giving evidence during the trial was incredibly brave and has led to two dangerous individuals being sent to prison for a very long time.”
These cases illustrate that child sexual abuse is a global problem and that the perpetrators can be hard to spot. After all, even though a couple may appear caring, what happens behind closed doors could be very disturbing indeed. It’s a scary thought.