An Alabama man is in custody Tuesday as a suspect in a child pornography video that was shared worldwide on social media, authorities said.
Germaine Moore, 44, of Millbrook, Alabama, turned himself in to authorities outside of Montgomery early Tuesday, according to Lt. Brooke Walker, commander of the Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The video depicts a sexual act between an adult male and a minor, whom authorities believe was 6 years old at the time.
Many people shared the video on social media in an apparent attempt to locate the man seen in the video, leading authorities in several states to warn people they could face charges for sharing and possessing the video, according to CNN affiliates WTKR and WFSA.
Charges are pending against Moore in Alabama, according to Elmore County District Attorney Randall V. Houston. Moore already faces criminal sexual conduct charges in Michigan involving three young relatives he allegedly sexually assaulted over the course of several years in Michigan and Alabama, the Wayne County, Michigan Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
“I believe we have the right person for this event,” Walker told CNN.
Alabama authorities are trying to determine when and where the viral video was taken, and who first shared it to social media. Walker said the video is not a recent video. Authorities believe that a person in the Montgomery area originally posted the video to Facebook, Walker told CNN.
She said she couldn’t say whether the victim in the video was under Moore’s care or whether the victim was related to him. Walker referred all questions about the victim in the video to Detroit police.
The child appearing in the viral video is safe, authorities said.
“These are the kind of cases – where a six-year-old child is being forced to engage in sexual activity – that gives all of us as parents nightmares,” Houston told reporters.
The investigation began last Wednesday when the Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, along with Montgomery, Alabama police and other authorities, learned that the video was being shared on various social media platforms, Walker said. Authorities worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and with Facebook to develop more leads, which led investigators to believe the video was connected to the Montgomery area, she said.
Tips poured in from all over the world, she said.
Around the same time, tippers also began contacting Central Alabama Crimestoppers about the video, the organization’s executive director, Tony Garrett said.
The Detroit Police sex crimes unit also gave the task force a strong lead in the cases, Walker said, ultimately leading to the charges in Detroit.
Authorities identified Moore as a suspect and searched his Millbrook residence on Monday. Authorities found several electronic devices but couldn’t locate Moore.
Moore’s wife, Tonya Hardy Moore, who arrived at the house, refused to cooperate in the search for him, Walker said. She was charged with hindering prosecution.
Authorities asked for the public’s help in locating Moore, who surrendered to Millbrook police around 3:30 a.m.
The couple is being held in the Elmore County Jail in Wetumpka, according to Walker. It wasn’t immediately clear whether either had an attorney.
Moore is expected to be extradited from Alabama to Michigan, according to prosecutors in both states.
Moore sexually assaulted the three relatives at his mother’s home in Detroit and at his home in Alabama, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said. The children – who are now ages 9, 10 and 12 – were in Moore’s custody and care from 2011 until 2017 while their mother worked, the prosecutor’s office said. He is the children’s paternal uncle, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Moore was charged Monday with offenses including two counts of child sexually abusive activity and one count each of using a computer to commit a crime and distributing sexually explicit material of children, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Garrett said people shared the video because they wanted to help identify the suspect. But the multiple shares can hamper the investigation as authorities try to find the origin of the video, he said.
“We believe the majority of the people that shared the video had good intentions,” Garrett said.
Facebook said it flagged the video when they learned about it, and its technology will automatically block it from being shared or uploaded in the future. The company will also report any attempts to share and upload the video to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Facebook said.
“We have also reported the video to the appropriate authorities,” Facebook said in a statement. “Sharing any kind of child exploitative imagery using Facebook or Messenger is not acceptable – even to express outrage. We are and will continue to be aggressive in preventing and removing such content from our community,”
Alabama authorities are also looking at what contact Moore has had with children during his time in Alabama and are working with Michigan authorities.
“We’re also looking at those same victims in Michigan and seeing did they spend time in Alabama,” Walker told WSFA.
“All the way around, it’s a team effort to make sure that every available charge in both jurisdictions is sought out,” she added.
It’s not clear if Moore or his wife has an attorney.
CNN’s Samira Said contributed to this report.