A man accused of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl as part of a suspected child pornography ring in Harnett County is a former employee of a Raleigh-based online publishing company and lives with his wife outside Carrboro.
William T. Akers, 46, was arrested early Thursday and now faces federal child pornography charges. Federal agents say Akers appeared in a child pornography video seized by Harnett County sheriff’s deputies last year during their investigation of Bailey Mills, a Sanford man who has been convicted of multiple sex offenses involving children.
Federal authorities say media and social media attention to the case helped them identify Akers and arrest him.
On Wednesday, federal agents asked for the public’s help in locating “John Doe,” a man they described as a “child predator.” They provided a photo of the man and said he might be using the name Peter Gilbert.
That plea was picked up by dozens of media outlets and reached more than 1.6 million people on Facebook and Twitter, generating more than 80 leads to the tip line for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations branch.
One of those tips Wednesday indicated that John Doe was Akers and that he worked in the information technology department at Lulu.com, an online publishing company based on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Within hours, ICE agents say they confirmed that Akers was the man who appeared in the video and arrested him about 1 a.m. Thursday while he was working the night shift at the company.
“I am grateful for the American public’s quick action in response to our appeal for help,” ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña said in a statement Friday. “Within hours of our request for assistance, more than a million people took notice and started spreading the word on social media and in the press. Because of this incredible support, we were able to identify and arrest a man accused of grossly violating an innocent child.”
Akers lives with his wife in an Orange County home on Marion Way that he purchased in 2007, according to Orange County real estate records.
Akers graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1991. According to his LinkedIn profile, he lived in Los Angeles and worked from 2001 through late summer 2006 as an operations director with the University of California, Los Angeles’ Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
Akers began working with Lulu Enterprises Inc. in December 2006, according to LinkedIn. He listed his jobs there as senior network engineer, director of information technology operations and director of the company’s developmental operations.
In an email statement late Friday, Lulu marketing manager Brook Terran said Akers had been fired. “We are shocked and appalled by the charges and saddened by this situation,” Terran wrote. “We have terminated Mr. Akers’ employment at the company. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement on this matter.”
Akers is apparently the man authorities were looking for when they mistakenly arrested a Johnston County man last summer. Harnett County deputies charged Tommy Keith Wall, 50, with raping a 13-year-old girl and taking part in the making of child pornography at Bailey Mills’ home outside Sanford starting in September 2013.
Detectives arrested Wall after they mistakenly thought a photo of him found at the Mills home linked him to the child sex crimes, said his lawyer, Fred Webb of Sanford.
Wall spent 105 days behind bars before he was released Oct. 6. In between, he lost a $55,000-a-year desk job in Garner, where he had worked for 15 years, and the home he owned in Willow Spring was auctioned off on the steps of the Johnston County Courthouse.
“I ain’t never seen the man in my life,” Wall said after looking at the photo of John Doe that federal agents had released. “I just thank God they got the man they should have had in the first place.”