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Victims ask parole board to do what Athens DA didn't - keep sexual predator behind bars for life


Avery Pendergraph (Georgia Department of Corrections)

By Rebecca Lindstrom, Ciara Bri'd Frisbie, Meredith Sheldon (11Alive), Mike Nicolas

Avery Hogan Pendergraph is behind bars at Wilcox State Prison.

His crimes span a decade across two Georgia counties more than 140 miles apart. His victims live in multiple states.

Pendergraph is eligible for parole around August 2027, about four years from now, according to Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Victims testimony and emails obtained by 11Alive Investigates reveal it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Prosecutors in Troup and Athens-Clarke Counties came up with a plan to prosecute Pendergraph for crimes that would've come with a mandatory 25-year prison sentence.

But, in an Athens-Clarke County courtroom, the plan, without warning to many involved, changed.

The DA’s office in Athens knew for years Pendergraph was a predator.

In 2014, he faced 21 felony charges for invasion of privacy. 11Alive spoke with one of Pendergraph’s first victims. She asked us to conceal her identity and refer to her only as Samantha.

Samantha said the two met in high school and continued dating at the start of her freshman year of college. She said Pendergraph often asked her to send him pictures of her naked body.

“He continuously asked and I continuously told him no, that I was not comfortable with that. I did not want to share that," she said. "I did not want the possibility of someone else seeing those images in any way, whether it was on his phone, on a computer screen, accidentally or whatever. But eventually I gave in and I sent a few images.”

About five years later, long after they had parted ways, Samantha would learn Pendergraph posted her photos online.

“He was including my full name. He was including details about where I was in school, where he thought I lived,” Samantha said.

Samantha eventually found three other women who are victims of the same violation of privacy. When the websites wouldn’t remove their images and information, they went to police.

“You feel a lot of judgment from people in law enforcement who don't really understand the ins and outs of the harassment that comes from this,” Samantha recalled.

Perhaps it was that lack of understanding that led prosecutors to offer a plea reducing Pendergraph’s 21 felony charges to two misdemeanors for reckless conduct. His punishment was 18 months probation.

“It was infuriating,” Samantha said. “Because we knew that it wasn't over that he was not going to leave us alone. And, of course, he didn't.”

As soon as his probation was up, Samantha said Pendergraph used various fake social media profiles to reconnect and he quickly found new victims.

'They discovered a horrific monster'

It was one of those victims, Katelyn Brooks, who led police back to Pendergraph.

Brooks met Pendergraph when she rented a room to him in the house where she was staying.

“He had started to be really creepy and weird things were going on in her bathroom,” Brooks' sister Emily said.

The family later learned Pendergraph placed a hidden camera in her bathroom; it was disguised as a wall plug with a USB charging adapter. He used the camera to record images of her naked and posted the content on porn sites and chat rooms.

In some cases, police discovered he also posted a picture of her driver’s license and credit card.

Police reports reveal Pendergraph liked to add messages to the posts -- most too offensive to repeat. But one revealed his intent. “I want to truly rob her of her private life in a full and cruel degrading way," he wrote.

“Because she came forward, they discovered a horrific monster,” Emily said.

The investigation into Brooks case led police to his room inside his parent’s home in Lagrange. There they found several more cameras hidden in a key fob and smoke alarm. They also seized several electronic devices which provided a trail of victims.


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