A Rougemont man was arrested and charged with 20 counts of third degree exploitation of a minor and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon by Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputies on Wednesday.

Harold Dean Bowden, 62, turned himself in on Wednesday and was placed under a $68,000 secured bond after investigators seized and searched several items of digital evidence from Bowden and discovered numerous child pornography images.

According to an OCSO press release, investigators searched Bowden’s home after a magistrate issued a search warrant on April 9 and collected evidence including computers, cell phones, a tablet and compact discs.

A weapon was also found during this search, which led to the possession of a firearm by a felon charge, as investigators discovered prior convictions for Bowden for indecent liberties with a minor before the search.

A subsequent search warrant was issued on April 12 that allowed authorities to search the specific items collected from Mr. Bowden’s home. This search led to the twenty counts of child exploitation.

The identified files were reviewed and, upon confirmation that the content of the images was child pornography, investigators used the geographic information system to confirm that the suspect lived at the identified address.

“The chronology of this case shows how time consuming and detailed these investigations are,” Ashley Woodlief, OCSO’s lead investigator on the case, said in the press release. “As perpetrators are collecting or sending digital images, we may simultaneously be working through the steps required to secure a warrant. Sometimes the original tip we received might be about one or two inappropriate images, but by the time we seize electronic evidence, the inventory may have increased significantly.”

The case began when a cyber tip report pointing to Bowden was submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on February 13 regarding possible child pornography photographs. That report was then sent to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), and the SBI submitted a subpoena requesting subscriber information for the IP address.

Information obtained from that search warrant provided a suspect name and possible home address. Once location was established as within OCSO jurisdiction, OCSO Internet Crimes Against Children task force members began working on the case in March.

Bowden’s bond was posted by a bail agent, and he was released before 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Bowden is represented by Amos Tyndall. Bowden’s bond and release conditions were reviewed at his first court date on Thursday and his next court date is scheduled for July 26.

Investigators are still reviewing other evidence collected and additional charges for Bowden are possible according to the press release.