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Couple face life in prison on child abuse charges

BROOKHAVEN — A south Lincoln County couple is facing lifesentences and thousands of dollars in fines after pleading guiltyto multiple counts of sexual battery, child pornographydistribution and other charges Wednesday in Lincoln County CircuitCourt.

Frank, 45, and Mary Hebert, 34, of 3889 Primitive Dr., Ruth,held their heads down and wiped tears from their eyes as Judge MikeSmith read the charges and possible penalties prior to acceptingthe guilty pleas.

Frank Hebert faces a maximum of four life sentences plus 125years and $545,000 in fines stemming from a total of 14 countsagainst him. Mary Hebert faces a maximum of one life sentence plus$120,000 in fines in a four-count indictment against her.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14. A hearing will be held toprior to sentencing to allow the judge to review some of theevidence in the case.

“It’s about as gross as it gets,” said District Attorney DannySmith.

In an 11-count indictment, Mr. Hebert pleaded guilty to threecounts of sexual battery; four counts of exploitation of a child,one of which involved transmission of child pornography; two countsof conspiracy; one count of fondling and one count of possession ofchild pornography. In a separate indictment, he pleaded guilty tothree counts of sexual battery.

Mrs. Hebert pleaded guilty to four charges in the indictmentagainst her. They included one count each of sexual battery andexploitation of a child and two counts of conspiracy.

Due to the nature of the case, which involved 13-year-old girland an eight-year-old boy, authorities were hesitant to discussspecifics.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Steve Rushingsaid the department received a complaint in the summer from one ofthe victim’s family members alleging suspected child abuse.Authorities then executed a search warrant.

“We discovered child pornography on the computer,” Rushingsaid.

Smith expressed appreciation to the Assistant District AttorneyDiane Jones, Rushing and the Attorney General’s Office’s new CyberCrime Unit, which assisted in the investigation.

“Attorney General Mike Moore, the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment and the District Attorney’s Office are committed todealing swiftly and harshly with such heinous criminals,” Smithsaid.

Defense attorney Ken McNees, who represented Mr. Hebert, saidthe case was a “pathetic commentary” on society and the cycle ofabuse.

“It is unfortunate that, all too often, people have beenconsistently sodomized or abused from an early age into theirteenage years,” McNees said, alluding to research suggesting brainwave pattern changes in childhood abuse victims. “It seems thevictims of today will invariably become the defendants oftomorrow.”