Prison time meted out in Joplin storage unit child porn stash case

Mar. 18—A defendant whose child pornography stash was discovered by the winner of an online auction of his storage unit's forfeited contents took a plea offer Monday sending him to prison for seven years.

Timothy P. Hilton, 62, pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to two counts of possession of child pornography in a plea agreement dismissing a third count and calling for concurrent seven-year sentences. Judge Gayle Crane accepted the plea deal and assessed Hilton the agreed-upon length of prison time.

The case came to light when Hilton failed to keep up his rental payments in the spring of 2022 on a unit at Public Storage on South Range Line Road in Joplin, and an overlock was placed on the unit and its contents put up for bid in an online auction.

Corey Stinnett, the high bidder for its contents sight unseen at $250, found a cedar chest, a sewing machine and other items inside when he went to claim his winnings April 27, 2022. Stinnett testified at a preliminary hearing a year ago that when he opened the chest he was surprised to find obscene photos of children, including one of a girl about 10 or 11 years old engaged in a sexual act.

Joplin police were notified and seized the material. But the matter remained under investigation for several months without any charges being filed.

That's the way the case remained until Feb. 24, 2023, when police officers responding to another matter encountered Hilton, and Detective Wes Massey used the occasion to question him about the locker he had rented at Public Storage.

Massey testified at the preliminary hearing that Hilton confirmed at that time that he had leased the unit, that he was the only one who used it and that its contents were his property. But he denied knowledge of there being any child pornography stashed there, the detective testified at the hearing.

Court records show that Hilton was convicted in 1993 in both Greene and Jackson counties of deviant sexual intercourse with an 8-year-old boy and has been required since then to register as a sex offender in the county in which he resides. He was living in a motel on Range Line Road when he was arrested on the child pornography charges a year ago.