Cole charged with invasion of privacy and theft
A Park Hills and Desloge city official has been charged following an investigation into a hidden camera that was allegedly placed in a bathroom at his residence to record a person staying at his home. During the investigation, the police would have discovered that the camera had been purchased with municipal funds.
Terance “Terry” Lee Cole, 54, of Desloge, was charged Friday in St. Francis County with invasion of privacy and theft ($750 or more).
Cole has been director of parks and recreation at Park Hills since November last year. He has been a municipal councilor representing Ward 3 of Desloge since his election in April 2021.
According to a probable cause statement on Monday, the Desloge Police Department asked the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s (MSHP) Drug and Crime Control Division (DDCC) to investigate an alleged violation of life private. DDCC investigators met with Desloge Police Department officers who briefed them on the allegations.
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The report states that on October 2, an 18-year-old man contacted the Desloge Police Department after finding a hidden camera in his bathroom at Cole’s residence.
The 18-year-old was residing with Cole at the time and reportedly had a private bedroom and bathroom in Cole’s basement. The teenager told police that around 11:30 p.m. on October 1, he entered his bathroom and found a hidden camera hidden on a shelf above the toilet.
The report says the camera was hidden inside a small cardboard box and the camera lens was visible through a small hole in the front of the box. The teenager immediately confronted Cole after discovering the camera, and Cole allegedly admitted to placing the device in the bathroom.
The camera was brought to the Desloge Police Department and seized as evidence on October 2. The device was identified in the report as a “PNZEO Wireless Portable WiFi Spy Camera”, which stores data on a micro SD card. There was no micro SD card with the camera when it was seized, according to police.
At around 5 p.m. Monday, the report said MSHP investigators spoke to Cole at his home in Desloge, where he invited them inside to talk privately. Cole told officers the teenager had been residing at his home since July. He reportedly said he decided to install cameras in his home because he believed the teenager was having unprotected sex with his girlfriend. The man also reportedly said the camera was “for protection/security.”
According to the report, Cole told investigators that he never activated the camera or downloaded the app that operates the recording device on his phone.
According to police, Cole further explained that he was employed by the City of Park Hills and that he purchased four of the cameras using the city’s budget, but brought one home for use. ‘try. Cole claimed he never “set up” the camera or turned it on after setting it up.
The report says Cole was asked about the missing micro SD card the camera needed to use. Cole allegedly retrieved a memory card from his pocket but said it contained nothing as he never inserted it into the camera.
Cole reportedly consented to research on his iPhone and the 128GB micro SD card he allegedly provided.
The report says an investigator previewed Cole’s cell phone and discovered that the man had previously downloaded the app to operate the camera, but it had since been removed. The investigator then extracted the data from the iPhone using forensic software.
A search of the micro SD card revealed no apparent recorded data on the card, and it was seized as evidence for further examination, according to police. Cole’s iPhone was returned to him after he completed the extraction.
On Tuesday, investigators reviewed the extract of data from Cole’s cellphone. The report said there was evidence that the “Mini Cam” app used to operate the PNZEO spy camera had been downloaded to the phone and since deleted.
It is noted in the report that the camera’s owner’s manual instructs the user to connect the phone’s wireless LAN to the camera’s WiFi signal using the camera’s unique UID number. The user then accesses the camera via an application called “Mini Cam”. The camera records events to a micro SD card and allows the user to set motion detection recording. From the user’s remote device, he can view the data saved on the micro SD card, according to the report.
An investigator wrote in the report that through his training and experience, he knew that data on a mobile device could be easily stored, hidden or shared across many different apps with any other device.
Later Tuesday, police obtained a receipt from the city of Park Hills for the purchase of the spy cameras.
The report states that using funds from the City of Park Hills, Cole purchased two remote night vision/motion detection cameras, two wireless WiFi mini cameras, two 128GB SD cards, two micro SD cards of 64 GB and four portable batteries from an online WiFi. spy camera company. The total cost of equipment purchases was $1,079.92, according to the report.
Park Hills City Administrator Mark McFarland and Police Chief Richard McFarland reportedly met with Cole. They asked him where the three remaining cameras, the three memory cards and the four batteries were. Cole reportedly told them he didn’t know where they were and that he last saw them at the city parks and recreation office.
On Thursday, an MSHP forensic analyst used digital forensic tools to cut out images and video from unallocated disk space on Cole’s micro SD card. Three nude images of the 18-year-old were reportedly recovered from the card. The report says the recovered footage appeared to be clips from video recorded by the hidden bathroom camera. Another image reportedly showed Cole’s face in view of the camera as he attempted to install the device in the 18-year-old’s bedroom.
At around 1 p.m. Thursday, the report said DDCC investigators contacted Cole at his home, and he agreed to a follow-up interview at the MSHP Troop C service center. There, Cole was again questioned about the three cameras and maps. micro SD which were missing. The man is said to have said that after receiving them all in the post, he opened one and took it home to “tinker”. He said he left the others “in the shop” at the Park Hills Parks and Recreation office.
After being confronted with some of the recovered digital evidence contradicting his statements, Cole requested an attorney and the interview ended, according to police.
Cole was taken to the St. Francis County Detention Center Thursday and held for 24 hours until formal charges are filed Friday afternoon. Bail for the man was set at $25,000. If released on bail, Cole is ordered to comply with GPS and pre-trial surveillance. He is also prohibited from having contact with the alleged victim in the case or anyone under the age of 18.
On Friday, additional electronic devices were reportedly seized from Cole’s office at the Park Hills Parks and Recreation facility. Police say a Dell Optiplex 3020 desktop computer and an HP laptop with SD card access were seized from Cole’s office, and the items are awaiting forensic examination.
Park Hills City Administrator Mark McFarland told the Daily Journal when made aware of the allegations he placed Cole on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Daily Journal contacted Desloge Mayor David Shaw, who declined to comment on the matter.
Cole is due to make a first court appearance in the case on Tuesday.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected]