In November 2012 Kentucky State Police arrest Sarah Alice Cox. The Owensboro nanny and child care worker is just 25-years-old at the time of her arrest. She's charged with more than a thousand counts of child pornography. Her arrest sends shock waves through the Tri-State.
In January 2013 a Grand Jury indicts Cox on 40 counts of child pornography. In May, she's allowed to leave jail under strict conditions. She quickly violates those conditions and a warrant is issued for her arrest. Cox and her girlfriend are found more than a thousand miles away in a Denver, Co. women's shelter. Cox is eventually taken into custody by Daviess County authorities.
Days before trial Cox agrees to a plea deal, taking 18 years to avoid the maximum prison sentence of 20. In a handwritten letter she petitions the judge for probation. She apologizes for running to Colorado, calling it "a moment of panic." But the damage is already done -- the judge shows no mercy.
"It is my opinion that imprisonment is necessary. There is a substantial likelihood that she will commit a C or D felony. She is in need of correctional treatment. Probation would depreciate the seriousness of this offense," said Hon. Jay Wethington during Cox's sentencing. "She has demonstrated that she will not follow the orders of court."
Cox is shipped off to the state penitentiary but her story doesn't stop there. To understand it you have to go back to August 2009. At the time, Cox was living near London, England. She enters a civil partnership with her lover, Charlotte Haydock. The following year Charlotte is impregnated through artificial insemination and in December the couple welcomes a baby boy.
But British documents obtained by Eyewitness News reveal Charlotte rushed the baby to the hospital just one month after he was born. Charlotte tells doctors Cox was changing the baby's diaper when she heard a "click" noise.
Records show the child was irritable and not moving his leg. An x-ray of the infant paints a troubling picture of abuse. Records show doctors discovered bruising on the baby's forearms and multiple fractures in his left leg and ribs. Both parents are arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and local authorities launch an investigation. In a later report, a pediatrician suggests the baby's injuries were no accident -- caused on at least two occasions by forceful blows, pulling, bending and twisting. The doctor suggests the infant suffered some of the fractures as much as two to four weeks prior to being taken to the hospital.
Authorities zero-in on Cox, they believe she alone is responsible. Cox says tells Investigators she didn't intentionally hurt her son, but investigators don't believe her. Charlotte is exonerated and the baby is returned to her care. During court proceedings Cox leaves the country, returning to her home town of Owensboro, Kentucky. She never goes back.
Cox works her way into childcare after returning to American soil. With few people aware of the child abuse allegations in England, Cox is able to work as a private nanny and daycare worker in the Owensboro area. One of her employers is Kiddie Kollege off New Hartford Road.
The daycare will not give a definitive answer as to whether a background check was done on Cox. Inspection records from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family services show the daycare has been cited on more than one occasion for not doing employee background checks. While it remains unknown if Cox received a background check, investigators say it wouldn't have mattered. She had no criminal history in the United States.
Nearly a year after returning to America, Cox gives birth to a boy in Daviess County. Social services takes the infant from her custody because of alleged physical abuse inflicted by Cox. Investigators say the alleged abuse was reported by a family member who witnessed the behavior while watching a nanny camera.
Shortly after her baby is taken, Kentucky State Police start investigating Cox after her IP address is tied to a child pornography investigation.
Law enforcement knew a large amount of pornographic material was being shared, but investigators were shocked to discover a female behind the crimes. Cox is what they call a "one-percenter".
"It's typically 99-percent male, one-percent female and that's when we realized, you know, we have a one-percenter right here in Owensboro and to my knowledge it's the first in Kentucky to be charged with the charges that we did," said Trooper Corey King, Public Information Officer for Kentucky State Police Post 16. "To have a one-percenter not only in the Commonwealth of Kentucky but right here in Owensboro was somewhat disturbing to us. It even stumped the investigators to see the one-percenter."
Former KSP detective Jason Pagan was assigned to the case. He immediately started looking into Cox's background. Ironically, he says, she was taking a law enforcement class at a community college. "Sometimes they learn the law to try to hide from it," said Pagan.
But the most disturbing moment was when authorities learned the woman accused of child exploitation was someone entrusted by many to care for their children. Detectives immediately stepped up their game, made an arrest and issued a desperate plea to parents.
"If anybody had contact with Miss Cox, if she was baby-sitting, somewhat of a nanny, whatever it may be -- we need pictures," recalled King.
"We wanted to make sure that while she was working there she wasn't producing child porn at the same time because she basically had pretty much unlimited access to the children," said Pagan.
King says they didn't think Cox was in the production business, but they had to be sure. "You really don't know until you rule things out. That's why we were playing it safe. And I think parents needed to know that too," said King.
No evidence was ever found to suggest Cox produced child pornography. After her first court appearance, Cox's mother Michelle said her daughter was sexually abused when she was young. She believed her daughter was searching for images of herself.
"Based on what we found on her computer -- that's not possible. That would require her looking for young females and what we found on her computer was not young females," said Pagan. "Everything that was on her computer was prepubescent little boys."
Cox was sentenced to 18 years in prison in October 2013. She'll spend the rest of her life on the sex offender registry. Her case is one investigators won't soon forget.
"She is one of the more cold and calculating people I've run across she had no remorse for what she did," said Pagan. "Most are willing to apologize to their victims. Sarah Cox would not do that. She would not give a statement, she didn't think she'd done anything wrong."
After a brief stint working in child exploitation, Pagan returned to the streets. The explicit imagery of infants, toddlers and young children performing sex acts was too much to handle day in and day out.
"I just started having images pop up in my mind just randomly and that's when I realized it just wasn't gonna work for me and I had to do something different," said Pagan. "You have to watch them being sexually abused, raped, abused in the videos [...] after while it just starts to wear on you and it affects you."
The one-percenter stumped investigators, concealed allegations of abuse, left some feeling disgusted and some feeling deceived.
"I think it really hits home to say you really can't trust anybody," said King.
Eyewitness News reached out to Sarah Cox to hear her side of the story but she refused to talk to us. She's currently in the Kentucky state women's penitentiary near Louisville.