Harnett County authorities have arrested four people on charges that they committed sexual offenses against children between the ages of 1 and 14, and a fifth person is accused of soliciting a child in the same case.
The case centers on a rental home on Nicole Drive, outside Sanford in Harnett County, where two of the suspects lived. Multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press, have reported that authorities suspect the home was being used as a child care center and a front for a child porn production operation.
Detective Brad Byrd of the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office says there is “no evidence” that the house was run as a day care. Still, the Sheriff’s Office says the man at the center of the case, Bailey Joe Mills, 33, “portrayed himself to be” a tutor, mentor and baby sitter.
Mills, a former Raleigh resident, has been convicted at least twice before of sex crimes involving children, according to criminal records.
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The case apparently dates back to Jan. 5, when detectives began investigating Facebook messages between Mills and a 12-year-old girl regarding payment for sex, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The girl told investigators that she “was shown homemade pornography at Mills’ home,” which included another girl, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
When they searched Mills’ home, investigators say they found videos and photos of men and a woman sexually assaulting multiple children, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies also arrested Elizabeth Holland Mills soon after. She is married to Bailey Mills, according to their landlord, Siegrun Collins. At the time of their arrests, the couple had rented the three-bedroom house for about 18 months, Collins said.
Collins said she had never seen any sign that the couple were hosting anything like a day care operation, or that they could hurt children. Collins said she checked in every other week and almost never saw any children except two young boys whom she described as the couple’s sons.
Bailey Mills, she said, was “down-to-earth and chatty.” He was unemployed, while Elizabeth Mills had described herself as an exotic dancer, paying the $750 monthly rent herself, according to Collins.
Bailey Mills was arrested Jan. 5, and Elizabeth Mills was arrested Jan. 10. Days later, their landlord saw the man’s mother clearing out their belongings.
“She moved all the belongings out of the house, when it was all going on,” Collins said. “That’s when I found out that he had problems before with young girls.”
Investigation widens, others charged
Between then and Tuesday, investigators arrested three more people in the case, describing two of them and the Millses as the “individuals that were assaulting the juveniles” seen in the seized photos and videos.
Bailey Mills is charged with first-degree rape of a child, first-degree sexual exploitation of a child, statutory rape of a child, first-degree statutory sex offense and taking indecent liberties with a child.
Elizabeth Mills is charged with second-degree sexual exploitation of a child, first-degree statutory sex offense with a child and taking indecent liberties with a child, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Both of the Mills were held Tuesday at the Harnett County Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Rashawn Rodriguez Drake Jackson, 20, of 151 Rental Lane in Cameron was arrested April 4 and is charged with first-degree sex offense with a child and felony conspiracy, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was held Tuesday at the Harnett County Detention Center under $150,000 bail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Jordan Everett Busse, 29, of 4953 Fieldcrest Drive in Fayetteville was arrested June 9 and is charged with felony conspiracy and soliciting a child by computer for sex, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Busse was released on $75,000 bond, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Tommy Keith Wall, 50, of 25 Ridge Way in Willow Spring was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree rape of a child, two counts of a first-degree sex offense with a child and felony conspiracy, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was held Tuesday under $1 million bail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Mills had previous convictions
Mills’ criminal record dates to March 1997. Then a 16-year-old high school student, he was accused of and later pleaded guilty to molesting a 4-year-old girl at Shelley Lake in North Raleigh.
The prosecutor agreed to three years’ probation because at the time Mills had no previous problems with the law. The judge ordered Mills to stay away from children younger than 13 and from parks and playgrounds, and he was to receive psychological treatment and participate in a sex-offender program.
Two years later, Mills was arrested on accusations he assaulted two girls, ages 16 and 14, by inappropriately touching them. He dropped out of high school and was convicted of two counts of assault on a female, which is not legally considered a sex offense, The News & Observer reported at the time.
At age 19, Mills was accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl at a Capital Boulevard flea market. He was convicted in 2000 of felony indecent liberties with a child in relation to the case, according to criminal records.
After that conviction, Mills was placed on the state’s sex-offender registry, but he no longer appears there. State law requires 30-year registrations for “sexually violent offenses,” including indecent liberties with children.
After 10 years, convicts may petition to be removed val from the list, assuming they have not been charged with further sexual offenses and generally are not a threat to public safety.
Collins, the landlord, has trouble believing that Elizabeth Mills could have played a role in sexual offenses against children.
“She was a really sweet woman – she was fantastic with her boys,” she said. Yet the weight of the case has sunk in, too.
“Kids, especially that age – that’s what makes me mad – the babies,” she said. “It shows again you can trust nobody.”