Monday, August 17, 2009

Katherine Nadal Sentenced to 99 years for Mutilating her Son

A Houston-area mother convicted of mutilating her infant by cutting off his genitals two years ago was sentenced Monday to 99 years in prison.

But minutes after the jury's sentence was read, Katherine Nadal, 28, yelled out that she did not hurt her son, prompting the boy's father to storm out of the courtroom.

Jurors deliberated for two hours Monday night before returning the sentence, which also included a $10,000 fine. The same jury had convicted her last week of first-degree felony injury to a child.

The jurors chose among possible sentences ranging from probation to life in prison. Nadal, who shook her head as the jury foreman read the sentence, will have to serve at least 30 years before she is eligible for parole.

Prosecutors asked for life in prison. Nadal's attorneys did not request a specific sentence, instead asking the jury to not punish her out of hate or revenge.

Nadal had claimed the family dog, a 6- to 7-pound dachshund named "Shorty" was responsible for mutilating her then-5-week-old son, Holden Gothia, as he slept in his parent's bedroom in March 2007 at their suburban Houston apartment.

But prosecutors said she was high on drugs when she mutilated her son with an unknown sharp instrument. Authorities say Nadal, who had prior drug arrests, tested positive for cocaine, methadone and Xanax after the attack.

Holden survived, but the severed body parts were never found.

After the sentence was announced, Holden's paternal aunt, Patches DeShazo, who has custody of the now 2-year-old boy, read a victim impact statement in the courtroom.

"I am thankful by time you are eligible for parole you will be beyond childbearing years. It makes me crazy to this very day to hear you say I did not hurt him," DeShazo said as she read her statement.

That prompted Nadal to yell back from the table where she sat with her defense attorneys: "I failed him. I did not hurt him."

The boy's father, Camden Gothia, then stood up and yelled to Nadal, "You abused him when he was in the womb," a reference to Nadal having taken drugs when she was pregnant with Holden. Gothia then left the courtroom.

DeShazo and her husband were given custody after his parents relinquished their rights. His father sees him regularly.

After the hearing, prosecutor Tammy Thomas told reporters that Nadal will never admit what she did.

"I don't know if this is justice to merit the damage," a teary-eyed Thomas said. "This is as close as we can get."

Allen Isbell, one of Nadal's attorneys, said he was disappointed that the sentence was "so long."

During closing arguments in the punishment phase of the trial, Thomas told jurors that Nadal had sentenced her child to a life of pain and suffering. "She took his identity as a human being and either flushed it or threw it in a trash can," Thomas added.

Doctors testified that he faces years of surgeries and counseling.

Nadal's attorneys told jurors that nothing they did would help Holden.

"This jury must punish Katie Nadal. That's your job. But what is appropriate? I hope you don't do it out of hate or revenge," defense attorney Skip Cornelius said.

Christopher Jason Elrod Charged with Killing His Daughter

A man charged with homicide by child abuse has been denied bond.

Christopher Jason Elrod, 30, had his first appearance in Lexington County Bond Court, Saturday afternoon. According to Lexington County Detention Center officials, he was denied bond and future court dates are pending. He is still being detained at the Lexington County Detention Center.

Elrod was arrested Friday by Lexington County Sheriff's Deputies who say he killed his daughter by suffocation. He's been charged with homicide by child abuse.

The arrest came at the end of a joint investigation by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the Lexington County Coroner's office, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

The warrant against him states that on December 7, 2008, Elrod held his daughter, Calen Elrod, tightly against his body. Deputies say his actions obstructed the girl's ability to breath, and the coroner's office determined she died from suffocation.

Deputies say on Friday, they conducted an interview with Elrod that allowed them to get information that helped establish probable cause in the case, allowing them to formally charge Elrod.

Gordon Houston Admitted to Raping Daughter Will be Released from Jail

A 69-year-old man who admitted raping his daughter when she was a young girl will be released from jail this week after spending six months behind bars for violating his probation.

Gordon N. Houston pleaded guilty in June, 2008 to the aggravated sexual assault of his daughter, Rebecca, back in the late 1980s, and was placed on deferred adjudication probation for 10 years.

The policy of the Seguin Gazette Enterprise is to not divulge the names of victims of sexual assault.

In this case, Rebecca Houston, now in her 20s, said she wanted her name used in order to bring attention to sexual assaults that are not uncommon in this community and to stand up for other victims, let them know they’re not alone and that they’ll have support if they speak out.

It took Rebecca Houston years to make an outcry herself, she said, because of the effect of years of sexual abuse as a child.

“All of my earliest memories are of this (abuse). My brother and my sister-in-law took me to the sheriff’s office to make my statement,” Houston said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it on my own without the support of people who love me.”

The case was indicted in 2006 on multiple counts, and all but one were dismissed in the plea agreement reached in June, 2008, between the office of former District Attorney Vicki Pattillo and defense attorneys Billy McNabb and Scot Courtney of San Marcos, in which Houston would carry no conviction for sexual assault — if he successfully completed the terms of his probation.

Probation conditions for a sex offender are extensive — 274th Judicial District Judge Gary Steel’s judgement filed July 20 that returns Houston to community supervision this week has been increased to 50 separate conditions, including committing no other offenses, having no association with others who commit offenses, no unsupervised contact with children, a year of electronic monitoring to begin immediately upon his release from jail.

He is also ordered to have no contact with and remain at least 500 yards from his daughter, to paying for her therapy or counseling and participating in sex offender treatment to include mandatory regular lie detector tests. He must also surrender his passport and cannot apply for another.

There was one further condition of Houston’s continued probation: that he spend six months in county jail — the maximum a state district judge can order under the law in a probation case. That six months is up on Tuesday.

In triple-starred, underlined bold-face italics near the end of the three-page judgment, Steel made one final note to Houston suggestive of what the judge’s attitude would be, should Houston be hauled before his bench again for violating the terms of probation.

“***Zero Tolerance — follow all sanctions and directives as indicated .... during the duration of your sex offender treatment program,” Steel wrote.

Pattillo, who now has a private law practice in Seguin, does not discuss criminal cases in the newspaper. Courtney, reached for this story, doesn’t discuss the negotiations or their outcome except to say that he believed at the time that both sides and the victim had agreed to probation for Houston, who is elderly and who had never been in trouble with the law before this offense.

Rebecca Houston says she didn’t quite understand what deferred adjudication probation would mean.

“I didn’t really expect that he would just get probation,” she said. “They explained to me basically it was probation with the option, if he messed up, that he goes to prison for a long time. Now, they’re saying he could be let go again, and that wasn’t the deal as I understood it.”

The way Gordon Houston “messed up” on probation was by failing to comply with conditions of his deferred adjudication by failing a polygraph test, failing to comply with treatment assignments as directed by his therapist, failing to make progress in his treatment and failing to disclose a sexual relationship with a mentally challenged 20-year-old woman to his probation officer or therapist, as required. He also admitted keeping a photographic negative of his victim, and admitted becoming aroused by it -- an admission his now-adult daughter testified “disgusted” her.

Houston’s therapist and probation officer recommended Houston be locked up for a period of time and then placed back on deferred adjudication probation and instructed to cooperate with his treatment, and while Steel had the option of adjudicating Houston’s case, entering a conviction and sending him away, court observers say it is uncommon for a judge to overrule the recommendation of the probation department.

In an adjudication hearing that began in May and was recessed into June so the judge and both sides could review more than 100 pages of case notes pertaining to Houston’s treatment, Courtney and McNabb went on the offensive in a confrontation with District Attorney Heather Hollub and her first assistant, Larry Bloomquist, who sought a long prison term.

The defense attorneys argued that Houston was complying with his conditions and his treatment — albeit maybe not as early or as quickly as he might have —and that it was Houston himself who offered up the admissions once he began cooperating with his treatment that resulted in the motion to adjudicate his case.

“What’s he supposed to think about ‘treatment’ in light of this motion?” McNabb asked the judge.

Hollub, who has made it clear she has concerns about Houston, said she accepted the outcome of the hearings.

“We respect Judge Steel’s ruling,” Hollub said.

Courtney said the same thing.

“The process works because the judge follows the law, and Judge Steel has absolutely followed the law,” Courtney said. “The time Mr. Houston has spent in county jail as a condition of his continuing on probation is the maximum amount of time the judge can set.”

Courtney noted the recommendation of the probation department.

“The judge relies on the probation department because they’re his eyes and ears,” Courtney said. “He did find there were violations, but the judge is there to look at the violations while on probation and not necessarily the original case and retry the allegations or the original charge. That’s not the purpose of this hearing. The judge is entrusted to look at the allegations in light of the evidence, and then decide of those allegations indicate the person should be sentenced to prison or for how long or that the conditions be amended in some way so that everyone’s interests are protected. That’s what Judge Steel did in this case, and I don’t think you can ask any more of a judge.”

Courtney said he understood, now, that Rebecca Houston is unhappy with the disposition of the original case.

“I don’t quarrel with that person, and I wouldn’t ever comment on how she should feel,” Courtney said. “But that being said, the process we’ve gone through is not a process to relitigate those original allegations. It’s just not.”

Probation for a convicted sex offender is not easy, Courtney noted.

“The conditions are onerous to say the very least, and that’s not to say that they’re unfair. You have to follow them,” Courtney explained. “I caution clients considering probation that it’s not a way to get a case over with. That’s just the beginning, and it will be a long road. If you’re not willing to do it, don’t bother (with probation). I think Mr. Houston has truly and will continue to redouble his efforts to comply with the court’s orders.”

Rebecca Houston isn’t so sure.

“If he’s going after a mentally slow girl, he’s still a predator and he needs to be put away, and obviously more counseling is not going to help and there will be more victims,” she said. “I really hate the fact that a man who has admitted to molesting children has been allowed out of jail. Even though he will have an ankle bracelet tracking him, that won’t stop him from being inappropriate with anyone he can get close to.”

She said she hoped others might come forward with information about her father.

“If more victims can find the courage to speak up, maybe he can be put away for good,” she said.

Gary Wade Brown Sentenced to a Year for Sexual Abuse of Boy Scout

A former Utah County Boy Scout leader narrowly avoided prison Monday and instead was sentenced to a year in jail for sexually abusing a 12-year-old troop member.

Gary Wade Brown, 42, cried in 4th District Judge Christine Johnson's courtroom as he apologized to the Scout, his family and the Boy Scouts of America for exploiting his position to victimize the young boy.

"I can't imagine the amount of pain and anger I have caused [the victim and his family]," Brown said. "No one else is to blame. I take full responsibility."

Brown pleaded guilty in June to four counts of sexual abuse of a child and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, all second-degree felonies, as part of a bargain to avoid serving time in prison, prosecutor Julia Thomas-Fishburn said.

The victim's father, who knew Brown from his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward, said he believes Brown can turn his life around and wants him to be given the chance to rehabilitate.

"I don't approach this situation with vengeance, but more with sorrow and pity," the victim's father said. "This is not the way I wish to see Wade."

Johnson said she was close to sending Brown to prison but decided to suspend the one- to 15-year prison sentence and give him one year in jail based on a psychologist's report that said he was a low risk for a repeat offense.

Johnson, however, placed Brown on an intensive 36-month probation, during which he must complete rehabilitative therapy and not have contact with minors, including his own children. The probation will begin when Brown, who was credited with eight months of time already served, gets out of jail in four months.

The sexual activity between Brown and his troop member occurred for 18 months in 2005 to 2006, according to police. They said the boy reported that Brown had fondled him at Scout camps and in the ex-Scout leader's car and home.

G.L. Sizemore Charged with Rape of Child

A man accused of multiple sex crimes against a family member goes on trial this week.

G.L. Sizemore, 49, of Kings Mountain, has been charged with two counts of indecent liberties of a child, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree sex offense of a child, and failure to appear on those charges. His last known address is Farris Road.

Sizemore is accused of committing sex crimes while he lived in the home where the victim also lived, according to court testimony. Prosecutors said the sexual abuse lasted more than five years.

Several potential jurors were candid Monday when asked by prosecutors and the defense if they knew of or experi-enced any form of sexual abuse. More than 10 people said that they had either experienced abuse or knew of a family member who had.

Many were dismissed. It took several hours for the eight-man, four-female jury to be chosen.

Opening statements

Prosecutor Elizabeth Lari began her opening statement by saying the case, “has been a family secret for a long time.”

Lari told jurors Sizemore began touching the accuser when she was a child and went on to say the touching esca-lated to fondling and eventually intercourse. The alleged abuse began at age 5 and ended at age 12, according to Lari.

“It happened a number of times throughout the years,” Lari said.

Lifelong memory

Tears rolled down the accuser’s face as Lari told jurors she will testify on Tuesday.

“I hope she will give you the full picture,” Lari said. “This is a lifelong memory that she has repressed and will now recall in a room full of strangers.”

According to court testimony, the victim came forward to authorities in July 2003 to give a full, detailed account of what happened those years of her childhood.

Two sides of a coin

Sizemore’s attorney, Mike Griffin, said there was a period of time when everything went well between the parties.

But things quickly changed between 2001 and 2003, when the accuser came forward.

“There are two sides to every coin and two sides to every story,” Griffin said.

Kevin Siegmann Charged with Sexual Assault on 13-year-old

*****************UP DATE****************

Just before 3:00 A.M. on Sunday morning, Omaha police responded to a sexual assault call at the Regency Marriott. The victim? A 13-year-old Omaha girl.

"When officers arrived, they met the victim who stated, she had been sexually assaulted in the main lobby of the restroom," said Officer Jacob Bettin with the Omaha police department.

Police believe, 30-year-old Kevin Siegmann, an army soldier stationed in Europe, was the one who did it.

"Our suspect made contact with a group of juveniles in one of the Internet café areas of the hotel. He offered them beers, they went upstairs, and had a couple beers," said Bettin.

After the drinks, police say, Siegmann followed the victim into a bathroom, assaulted her, and took off. But, thanks to a dispatcher with "Checker Cabs," police were quickly on his trail.

"Someone contacted us at the Marriott, stating he needed transportation from the Marriott to the Comfort Inn at 87th and Dodge," said John Davis, the director of operations with Checker Cabs.

But, when the cab arrived to pick Siegmann up at the Marriott, he was nowhere to be found. Luckily, the cab dispatcher had his information.

"We require it at night as part of a safety issue. Full name, contact number, and exact address of pick up and drop off," said Davis.

That information led police to the Comfort Inn, where they found Siegmann, and made their arrest.

"We're happy to help the police out, and glad this person was apprehended," said Davis.

Siegmann has been charged with first degree sexual assault. The 13-year-old victim and her parents declined to talk on camera tonight. They say, they still have details to go over with police, before their daughter can tell her side of the story.

Police say, Siegmann was in Omaha for a function that night.

Both Siegmann and his wife are stationed overseas.

Melissa Huckaby Indicted for Kidnapping, Raping & Killing 8-year-old

A grand jury has indicted a Sunday school teacher on charges she kidnapped, raped and killed an 8-year-old girl and drugged two other people.

Melissa Huckaby broke down in tears Monday as Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus read the indictment against her. The reading came after prosecutors convened a grand jury last month to determine whether Huckaby would stand trial.

Lofthus said the grand jury transcript would remain sealed. No trial date has been set.

Huckaby, 28, is accused of killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, a playmate of Huckaby's young daughter. Sandra went missing in March in Tracy, her hometown in Northern California. A massive search for her ended 10 days later when her body was found stuffed in a black suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond near the mobile home park where she lived.

Defense attorney Sam Behar asked Lofthus to delay setting a trial date, saying he has not read the indictment or lengthy transcript because he's in the middle of another trial.

But Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa said he delivered a copy of the indictment to Behar's office earlier this month. "He's had a lot of time to read this indictment," Testa told Lofthus.

The judge then proceeded to read the indictment charges to a weeping Huckaby, who appeared in court with two fresh scratches above her right eyebrow. Neither Behar nor Testa would comment on the nature of Huckaby's injuries after Monday's hearing. A gag order barring attorneys, investigators and potential witnesses from commenting on the case remains in effect.

Huckaby in June pleaded not guilty to killing Sandra as well as to charges that she previously had drugged a 7-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man, whom police believe she had been dating. The girl and Huckaby lived in the same mobile park.

Huckaby is charged with two counts of furnishing someone a harmful substance and one count of child endangerment in the drugging cases.

In the case involving Sandra Cantu, Huckaby is charged with murder with the special circumstances of rape, kidnapping and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14, which could make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Sandra was last seen on a surveillance camera skipping near her home just five doors down from the defendant.

On Monday, Huckaby entered the courtroom smiling, but her demeanor became tearful and somber as the indictment was read and debate on her next court appearance ensued.

Testa said the district attorney's office is treating the case as if it will be a death penalty case, but no decision is expected for at least two months.

Prosecutors convened a grand jury instead of holding a preliminary hearing in the case to ensure a speedy trial and avoid a possible change of venue. Testa also told Lofthus he wants a speedy trial because the case involves minors and should be made a priority.

Lofthus countered that it would be premature to set a trial within 30 days because Behar had not seen the indictment or the voluminous grand jury testimony.

"We need to do the case one time, and we need to have the case done right," the judge said. "The defense needs time to prepare."

Lofthus then scheduled a Sept. 10 hearing to discuss possible trial dates. Huckaby remains in the San Joaquin County Jail without bail.

Jeffery Dickson Convicted of Raping & Sodomizing 7-year-old

Greene County jurors have convicted a Springfield man accused of kidnapping, raping and sodomizing a 7-year-old-girl in April 2008.

The eight-man, four-woman jury found Jeffery A. Dickson, 39, guilty of child kidnapping, forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy. A sentencing hearing on Oct. 23 will determine whether he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Dickson — who’d been relatively sanguine over four days of testimony — stood, stoic, as Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier read off the convictions to a packed courtroom.

Dickson will appeal, his public defender said.

Earlier today, attorneys presented their closing arguments to the jury, which deliberated for just over two hours before announcing the verdict.

In his argument, Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Russ Dempsey methodically laid out the evidence against Dickson.

How several witnesses described Dickson being present at the North Kansas Expressway home where an all-night card game was taking place on April 5, 2008. How the girl, now 8, also was there, having been brought by her grandmother.

Dickson allegedly brought the girl Kool-Aid and helped her with the computer at various points. He also allegedly brought a cousin to the West Nichols Street home where the attack later occurred, selling him a TV.

Dempsey recounted the testimony of the alleged victim, who took the stand and described how “Jeff” came to the window of a bedroom she was playing in. He promised her a Barbie doll if she’d come with him, she said.

Dickson then allegedly took the girl to the home at 1024 W. Nichols St. — the owner wasn’t there — raped and sodomized her. He then allegedly choked her to unconsciousness and set the house on fire, an allegation for which he is not charged due to a lack on concrete physical evidence.

“Quite honestly, I don’t care if an accelerant was used,” Dempsey said, referring to fuel investigators believe was used to start the blaze. “I don’t care if he used a blow torch. I don’t care if he started it with a single match. I don’t care if a bolt of lightning struck the house.

“The fact of the matter is that (the girl) was raped and sodomized, then left inside the house when it caught fire.”

Testimony indicated the girl picked Dickson out of a photo lineup after the attack.

Lastly, Dempsey discussed a partial DNA profile found on the girl’s thigh after the attack. Because the sample was scant, analysts were not able to build a full DNA profile.

However, they performed a Y-chromosome test on the swab, and found it matched DNA on Dickson’s Y-chromosome.

That same profile would be found on any male relatives in Dickson’s paternal lineage, the analyst said. Additionally, it might be found in 1-in-3,636 individuals.

Prosecutors argue the coincidence is too great for it to have come from anyone but Dickson.

Public defender Rod Hackathorn, meanwhile, argued the girl had been swayed into believing Dickson was her attacker.

“What this case has been about from the defense standpoint from day one has been whether or not Jeff Dickson committed this crime,” Hackathorn said. “What this case has not been about is whether or not something happened to (the girl).”

He noted the child was the sole eyewitness who could say what happened to her in the early morning hours of April 6, 2008, and pointed out changes in her story from the attack until Dickson’s trial.

Prominent in this argument was the girl’s interview at Springfield’s Child Advocacy Center. Asked if she’d ever seen the man who attacked her in that interview, the girl said she hadn’t seen him until he came to her window.

In testimony, she referred to Dickson by name.

But prosecutors noted the girl described Dickson to her mother as she lay in a hospital bed shortly after the attack. That description allegedly involved a man who’d given her Kool-Aid, and was wearing a “do-rag,” as Dickson was that night.

Hackathorn suggested the girl was swayed by her grandmother, who allegedly had begun to suspect Dickson before she met the girl at the hospital.

“Don’t you think that grandma wanted to give a name?” he said. “Well, Jeff is the easy target. They convicted Jeff as soon as grandma got to the hospital.”

Prior to attorney’s arguments, Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier ruled Hackathorn would not be allowed to suggest Dickson’s brother might have carried out the attack.

Hackathorn had planned to argue the brother occasionally hung out at the house from which the girl was abducted, was familiar with the West Nichols Street home where the assault occurred, and lived near the girl’s grandmother.

But Cordonnier ruled “there has been no proof that anyone other than the defendant committed any act connected with this crime.”

“The court is not going to permit that argument,” he said. “To do otherwise would invite the jury to enter into conjecture.”

Hackathorn instead referred to foreign DNA found under the victim’s fingernails after the assault. Analysis of the material found it wasn’t Dickson’s.

Hackathorn suggested that the girl grabbed her attacker’s hands when he choked her, and that the DNA under her fingernails belongs to the perpetrator.

“I know your heart aches for what the little girl went through,” he told jurors. “I know you want to do something for that family. That family wants more than anything for Jeff Dickson to go to prison.

“That’s the easy thing to do: to come back with a guilty verdict. But sometimes the hard thing to do is also the right thing to do.”

In a rebuttal argument, Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Jill Patterson once again summarized the state’s evidence, then posed a question.

“How does a 7-year-old wearing jeans end up with DNA matching a person who did all those suspicious things you heard about that night? she asked. “The person who took an interest in that little girl. The person who was in the same home with her and had been to 1024 West Nichols that evening.

“How does she end up with DNA on her skin matching that person? I submit to you that you know how that DNA got on (the girl).”

Michael Crites Arrested for Forcible Sodomy on 10-year-old

A 26-year-old Springfield man accused of sexually assaulting a boy near a Jordan Creek swimming spot appeared in court today, waiving his right to a probable cause hearing.

Michael W. Crites is charged with kidnapping, two counts of forcible sodomy and two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy.

Prosecutors say he snatched a 10-year-old boy from a swimming hole near the intersection of Meadowmere and Hillcrest streets on July 15, then took him into the woods and sodomized him.

Crites allegedly told the boy not to scream or it would “be worse,” according to a probable cause statement filed with the charges.

The boy ran home and told his mother of the assault.

In an interview with police, Crites allegedly said he’d been walking in the woods with the boy,

“Crites was unsure how (the boy) ended up on the ground, but stated he sat next to (the child) and touched (the boy’s) anus with his hand,” the probable cause statement said. “Crites realized what he was doing, got up, and ran away.”

Crites is scheduled to be arraigned in Greene County Circuit Court on Aug. 28. He’s being held in the Greene County Jail on a $200,000 bond.

Kenneth Delaine Stewart Sentenced to 45 Years for Sexual Assaut of 7-year-old

A Dayton man pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to 45 years in prison in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 7-year-old northeast Harris County girl abducted from a bus stop in April 2008.

Kenneth Delaine Stewart, 27, pleaded guilty on the eve of trial in state District Judge Marc Carter's court to super aggravated sexual assault. The enhanced charge mandates that he serve the entire prison sentence, prosecutors said.

Assistant District Attorney Wendy Baker said the girl's father gave a victim's impact statement, in which he thanked Stewart for letting the girl live.

Stewart's defense attorney, Alvin Nunnery, could not be reached for comment.

Investigators and members of Stewart's family said he confessed to tricking the Summerwood Elementary student into getting into his car in the Fall Creek subdivision on April 7, 2008, from a bus stop in the 14500 block of Logan Falls, police said.

More than an hour later, he dropped the girl off in Baytown, 20 miles from her home.
Clothing missing

According to court documents, some of the girl's clothing was missing when she was released and her hair had been cut. A subsequent medical examination determined the child had been assaulted.

Stewart spent a year in jail in Liberty County for assault. He also had served time in jail for burglary, theft, child endangerment and drunken driving,

His mother Theresa Jackson has said her son told his grandmother “everything happened fast” and that the child reminded him of his own 3-year-old daughter.

Before the 7-year-old was abducted, Stewart had offered a 9-year-old girl $100 to touch her genitals, police said. While she ran to alert her parents, Stewart kidnapped the 7-year-old, police said, telling her that her mother had a flat tire and sent him to pick her up.

Officer Anthony Miller Sentecned 5 Years for Child Porn

A police officer, who lives in western Wisconsin, is sentenced to serve time in prison for possessing child pornography.

Monday, Anthony T. Miller was sentenced to five years in prison. He lives in New Richmond, but works in Minnesota. He has been a police officer with the city of Hastings for 11 years.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice says Miller admitted downloading and trading child pornography for the past two years.

Press Release:

NEW RICHMOND - Anthony Miller, who told investigators he was a Hastings Minnesota police officer, was sentenced by Judge Vlack today on two counts of Possession of Child Pornography. He received 14 years on the first count with 4 years of initial confinement and 10 years of extended supervision. On count two Miller received 15 years with 5 years of initial confinement and 10 years extended supervision to be served concurrently.

In addition, Miller must provide a DNA sample, register as a Sex Offender, not use a computer or access the Internet without prior written approval, not possess pornography and may not have contact with any child under 18 without prior written approval.

Miller was originally charged on December 18, 2008 with Possession of Child Pornography and Sexual Exploitation of a Child.

"Sadly, a man sworn to protect society has committed a crime victimizing our most vulnerable," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office investigated the crime with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the New Richmond Police Department. "Today's sentence sends a strong message: download and distribute child pornography and you will go to prison for a long time."

Trial Begins for Richard Jay Swank Charged with Sexual Abuse

Through tears, the daughter of a man on trial for years of allegedly abusing his son told of a time when her father gave her a gun and tried to get her to kill her abused brother.

The trial of Richard Jay Swank, 47, charged with multiple counts of sexual of abuse of a child, opened on Monday morning with Deputy District Attorney Kathleen DiDonato describing a horrendous life of the victim — not just from sexual abuse but also years of torture, beatings, starvation and isolation from the rest of the family.

“The beatings at the hands of his father started when the victim was about three or four years old,” DiDonato told the jury. “Shortly before 10 years old is when years and years of sexual abuse began that included repeated sodomizing and oral copulation.”

Swank is charged with multiple counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object and oral copulation by force.

Sex Offender William Davis Sentenced to 120 More Years

A convicted sex offender already serving 40 years in prison for raping a 12-year-old girl at an Ardsley motel has been sentenced to another 120 years in prison for crimes that came to light as a result of that case.

A federal judge in Manhattan today sentenced William Davis, 48, of Manhattan, for his conviction at trial on charges of producing child pornography, possession of child pornography, and being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition.

The production of child porn charge refers to explicit photos of Davis' 4-year-old step-daughter that Ardsley and Westchester County police found after they arrested Davis for the Dec. 28, 2006, kidnapping of a 12-year-old girl off a Brooklyn street.

Davis took the girl to the Ardsley Acres Motel where he raped her.

Ardsley detectives later found additional child pornography on computer disks and five bullets in a safe that Davis had left at his ex-wife's apartment in Manhattan.

He was convicted in August 2007 in state Supreme Court in Westchester County for the Ardsley rape and sentenced to 40 years.

The 120-year federal sentence imposed today will run consecutive to the state sentence.

Ria Ramkissoon Guilty of Starving Child to Death Will Soon Be Released from Jail

A Maryland woman who pleaded guilty last March to child abuse resulting in the starvation death of her one year-old son at the hands of a Baltimore-based religious cult will soon be released from jail.

Ria Ramkissoon will receive a 20-year suspended sentence for testifying against Queen Antoinette who led the cult called One Mind Ministries, who instructed Ramkissoon to deprive young Javon Thompson of food and water for not saying amen before meals. The infant who died in Baltimore was later found in a suitcase in Philadelphia. Ramkissoon’s lawyer reported that cult members believed if the body could travel with them, the child could be resurrected.

The mother was one of five cult members charged in Javon’s death; she has agreed to testify against those involved in addition to Queen Antoinette. Both defense and prosecuting attorneys have moved to send Ramkissoon to counseling.

Glen Runnels Charged with Child Abuse

A Topeka man was charged with four counts of child abuse Thursday in Mason County Court.

According to court records, Glen D. Runnels, 34, is accused of striking a child younger than 13 on the back and buttocks with a belt and an incense burner on Aug. 8.

Runnels is charged with two counts of aggravated battery of a child, a Class X felony, and two counts of aggravated domestic battery of a child, a Class 2 felony.

He is being held in the Mason County jail on a $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear with public defender Roger Thomson at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Nine Men Arrested in Internet Sting in Michigan

Nine men are behind bars accused of trying to have sex with a child after meeting them on the Internet.

Police said the men drove from all over Michigan and Ohio to meet with a cop who posed as a teenager for sex.

The Michigan Attorney General's office and Livingston County Sheriff's department teamed up with Perverted Justice for a three-day sting operation in Howell.

On Monday, Sheriff Robert Bezotte announced results of that sting that took place from Aug 14-16.

Police said more than 150 men attempted to engage in sexual activity with officers posing as children.

"It's very disturbing because we are only touch the tip of the ice berg," said Sheriff Bezotte.

Those arrested include a retired Detroit police officer, a grocery store clerk from Clarkston, a local security guard, a postal carrier and a software engineer from metro Detroit.

The men range from 24 to 53 years old.

The defendants were charged with child sexually abusive activity and using a computer to commit a crime, both felonies.

"The message for predators is loud and clear," said Attorney General Mike Cox. "We are watching. If you attempt to target a child, we will take you offline."

Those arrested are:

George William Allen, 53, of Detroit. Police said Allen is a retired City of Detroit police officer who counseled the undercover agent on how to avoid saving chat logs and threatened to kill himself if turned in.

Allen was arrested at a nearby fast food restaurant parking lot.

John Deleo Custer, 40, of Clawson. Clawson is a grocery store clerk who took a cab from Oakland County to the decoy location, later arriving at the home on foot.

He was arrested outside the home.

Jason Jerome Lombardo, 37, of Eastpointe. Lombardo is a music D.J., who was taken into custody at a nearby fast-food restaurant parking lot.

Michael Thomas Krauss, 49, of LaSalle in Monroe County. Krauss is a security guard who was taken into custody when he walked into the decoy home.

Dipankar Roy, 29, of Columbus, Ohio; reported that he is an Indian citizen in the United States for about a month as a software programmer.

Police said Roy took a cab to the decoy home after taking a bus from Columbus to Detroit.

Timothy John Fitzhugh, 47, of Grand Rapids; also arrested by authorities at a fast-food restaurant parking lot while carrying condoms, lubricant and pornographic videos.

Robert Joseph Smith, 24, of Flint.
Ashish Jain, 29, of Rochester Hills.
Ronald Alan Blake, 50, of Flint.

Police said in each case the men used chat rooms or Craig's List to find the teens.

Internet Crimes Detective Matthew Shutts sat down with Local 4 Monday to show how fast investigators can lure child predators online.

"I've just logged in and had 2 contacts within probably 20 seconds," said Shutts, who was posing as a child looking for sex in an internet chat room.

Cox said investigators will work to locate the men who responded to the online postings and were not arrested.

"This is a reminder for parents that the Internet is being used by predators to target our children," said Cox. "Parents must be monitoring what their kids are doing online and talk often with them about the dangers of communicating with people they don't know and trust."

Jenny Lizette Erazo-Rodriguez Charged with Strangling her 4-year-old

A 33-year-old Morris Township woman strangled her 4-year-old daughter to death and attempted to strangle her 6-year-old daughter before trying to kill herself, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office said Monday morning.

Jenny Lizette Erazo-Rodriguez faces first-degree murder charges in the death of her youngest daughter, Mary Gonzalez, 4, who died of suffocation caused by strangulation, authorities said.

Erazo-Rodriguez also is charged with attempted murder for trying to strangle her 6-year-old, Niurka Gonzalez, but did not succeed in killing her before trying to kill herself.

Niurka Gonzalez suffered minor injuries, authorities said, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Erazo-Rodriguez is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. In addition to charges of murder and attempted murder, she also is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She was first taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the girls’ father -- whose name was not released -- returned home shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday after failing to find work as a carpenter. He began doing yardwork around their Highland Avenue home, but found it odd that his girls had not come outside to greet him.

When he went inside the house, he heard a commotion and found his 4-year-old daughter lying on the floor, unconscious. He slung the girl over his shoulder and ran to a neighbor’s house -- a nurse -- for help. Meanwhile, Erazo-Rodriguez attempted suicide. Authorities would not say how the woman tried to take her own life.

Mary Gonzalez was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 11:06 a.m. Her sister was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The first Morris Township police officer at the scene, Patrolman Christopher Vargas-Vila, wrote in an affidavit that when he arrived, the 33-year-old mother said, in Spanish, "I killed my girl. I killed my girl, my baby girl."

Niurka Gonzalez told other officers that she awoke Sunday mornintg and heard her sister's cries coming from her mother's bedroom. Her mother ordered the older girl back to her room. Her mother followed her, then sat on her back and told her not to breathe. She eventually lost consciousness.

Erazo-Rodriguez is expected to make an initial appearance in Superior Court, Morristown, on Tuesday.

The prosecutor’s office said there is no history of violence at the family’s Highland Avenue home. Authorities declined to discuss whether Erazo-Rodriguez has an arrest record or a history of mental illness.

Morris County authorities also are working with U.S. immigration authorities to determine the woman’s immigration status.

Earlier report
Vargas-Villa and other police arrived at the house shortly after a 10:15 a.m. phone call reporting an emergency at the home, Bianchi said. There, police found a neighbor administering CPR to the unconscious, unresponsive 4-year-old girl on the lawn.

Another neighbor was caring for the girl’s 6-year-old sister, who was conscious but lethargic, Bianchi said. Both girls were taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital.

At 11:06, the Mary Gonzalez was pronounced dead, Bianchi said. Niurka Gonzalez was being treated Sunday for non-life-threatening injuries.

Gilbert Gibson of Newark was visiting his mother in the neighborhood. He said he saw a woman on the front porch of 62 Highland Ave. with a gray T-shirt and pajama pants. He said he saw blood on the inside of the woman’s left thigh, down to her knee. Paul declined to confirm whether the woman Gibson described was Erazo-Rodriguez.

“I could tell by the way they were escorting her to ambulance, she just wanted to go,” Gibson said.

Other neighbors said they were stunned by the incident.

“We have an entire neighborhood with children of all ages, so it can be scary for the kids,” said neighbor Marcia Gibson, Gilbert Gibson's mother.

“Something like this has never happened before," another neighbor, Chrystina Simpson, said.

Several neighbors, most of whom declined to provide their names, said they heard a man they presumed to be Erazo-Rodriguez's husband cry out in anguish.

Simpson said the family living at 62 Highland Ave. had been in the gold, Cape Cod-style home for less than a year.

Morris Township police, the prosecutor's office and the Morris County Sheriff's Office's Criminal Investigation Section had all taken part in the investigation. Officials remained on the scene late Sunday night.

“This is an absolute tragedy and I join (Morris Township Police) Chief Timothy Quinn in extending our deepest sympathies to the family of this young child who passed away,” Bianchi said. “We are asking anyone with information to call the Morris Township Police Department at 973-539-0777, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-6200 or the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stopper Program at 973-COPCALL.”

Paul Matthew Green Sentenced to 63 Months for Child Porn

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. sentenced Paul Matthew Green, 38 of Solomons, on August 17, to 63 months in prison followed by supervised release for life for receipt of child pornography, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. As a consequence of his conviction, Green will also be required to register as a sex offender in the place where he resides and where he is an employee, pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

According to Green’s plea agreement, in April 2006, ICE began an investigation into an organization operating commercial child pornography websites, which offered individuals monthly access to restricted websites for a fee. ICE agents were able to identify individuals that were paying for access to these illicit sites, including Green. One of the websites to which Green purchased access contained video recordings documenting the sexual abuse of prepubescent females and minor males. Additionally, Green bought access to other child pornography websites on at least six occasions over a two month period. ICE agents interviewed Green on December 13, 2007 and searched his residence. Green admitted that he purchased access to those websites and viewed child pornography on the internet.

ICE agents reviewed the contents of computers seized from Green’s residence, which contained at least 2,944 images and 101 movies containing child pornography. The majority of those images involved pre-pubescent children, some appearing to be as young as five years old.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit Details about Maryland’s program are available at

John Handel Arrested for Downloading Porn at Work


A hospital security guard was arrested Friday after it was found he allegedly downloaded thousands of pieces of child pornography at work.

John Handel, 56, who worked at Shore Memorial Hospital, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, Somers Point Capt. Michael Boyd said Monday. He has since been terminated, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Shore Memorial administrators called Thursday "in reference to an employee illegally downloading child porn onto hospital computers," Boyd said.

An investigation by the Police Department and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Computer Crimes Unit found about 9,000 pictures depicting children in sex acts, Boyd said, adding that they were downloaded within a four-month period.

That averages to more than 80 photos per day in an average five-day week.

Police arrested Handel on Friday, and also searched his home in the Villas section of Lower Township with the assistance of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office. Handel had no computer in the residence nor any other child pornography, police said.

The case was investigated by Somers Point Detective Roy Gandy and detectives from the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Computer Crimes Unit.

Shore Memorial's Information and Technology Department noticed unusual Internet activity, spokeswoman Deepa Patel said. The department notified hospital officials who contacted police.

"Our cooperation throughout this investigation is what led to the arrest," Patel said. "We will continue to cooperate fully."

She said she could not comment further due to the ongoing investigation.

Handel was not listed in any facilities in the state Monday evening, according to personnel at the Atlantic County Jail.

Brett Candelaria Found Guilty of Sexual Assault

They are all gathered in the Denver courtroom, anxious to see what will happen to the man in the stone-gray pullover — the man with the Hot Wheels collection and the video games and a string of shattered young men stretching across two states.

Sitting in the back is a man from New Mexico in Wranglers and a black buttoned shirt, grown now with children of his own. He was 10 years old that day in 1992 when the defendant took him for a ride in his car, stopped at a park and molested him. He is here for himself and for his two brothers, also victims.

A slight 17-year-old boy with a buzz cut sits nearby, his red tie sticking out from the collar of his white shirt. Three years ago, after many sexual assaults, he had his head slammed against the side of a U-Haul when he tried to halt the abuse.

Next to him, close, is one of the Denver police detectives who investigated his case. Their work is done, and yet the abuse case gnaws at them. They worry that the abuser took advantage of still other boys, boys they haven't heard about.

In the corner sits a juror who pronounced the defendant guilty on 15 counts, wondering what happens next.

An air conditioner drones as 37-year-old Brett Candelaria, flanked by his attorneys, awaits his fate. It is a few minutes before 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13. Judge William Robbins Jr. is about to sentence Candelaria.

A ruse perfected over decades

Brett Candelaria was just a teenager when he started preying on boys, according to court documents.

Over two decades, he perfected his ruse, finding vulnerable families, latching onto them at church, quickly winning their trust and then, after obtaining easy access to young boys, committing horrific crimes.

Experts call it "grooming" — a process of subtly ingratiating himself to families to the point at which otherwise cautious mothers and fathers thought nothing of letting their boys spend the night at his home.

Brett Candelaria -- convicted of sex assault on two teenage boys victimized by Candelaria found him, in the beginning, so perfect. A regular at her church, polite and respectful. Helpful when her husband's car broke down, offering to pay for new parts. A friend who gave her teenage son a job.

It was only later, after Candelaria had molested her son and her nephew, that the woman realized she'd been taken in by the kind of deliberate, insidious assault that pedophiles perfect over years.

"I look at it now, and I think, God, I was so naive," she said. "I just never would have thought — especially someone from your church.

"It's always the people you least expect."

Her family learned that lesson with cruel certainty.

That it doesn't matter what someone looks like. That a role in a church is no guarantee of a person's motives. That anyone can be a child molester.

"There is no typical face to a predator," said Maggie Conboy, a deputy district attorney in Denver. "Brett Candelaria looked like the guy next door, and he cultivated that image."

Life sketched in police reports

There is much about Candelaria that remains a mystery. He declined a request for an interview, and the detectives and prosecutors who spent 18 months studying him came away with more questions than answers. But sketches of his life fill court records and police reports.

Candelaria grew up in northwestern New Mexico in the Farmington-Aztec area. He never really knew his dad, a man, he claimed to one detective, who fathered 27 children. For a time he used his mother's name — Archuleta — but adopted his father's after a paternity test proved his lineage.

He was a teenager the first time a young boy accused him of sexual assault. That was in the 1980s, and though it was reported to police, no criminal charges were ever filed, according to court documents.

In late 1992, a mother's allegations that Candelaria molested three of her sons sparked a police investigation and formal criminal charges. Candelaria was 20, working as a security guard, when he befriended the woman's family, attending church with them, spending time with the boys. The relationship grew comfortable enough that Candelaria sometimes spent the night in her family's home. And three of her sons — ages 9, 10, and 13 — sometimes spent the night at Candelaria's home.

All three boys alleged that Candelaria molested them. The oldest boy reported the abuse even though Candelaria issued a cryptic threat: "Do you want to see your family? I am dead serious."

He pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual contact with a minor — although he would later contend he was pressured by his attorney to make the plea — and spent about two years behind bars.

In the spring of 1997, Candelaria found work at a Farmington trailer park.

And he faced a new set of allegations from two boys, ages 6 and 8. The allegations were a virtual repeat of the ones that sent him to prison. A meeting with the mother of the boys. Church. Trust. Sleepovers. Sexual contact. But in that case, a jury acquitted Candelaria, and he eventually left New Mexico.

By late 2002, Candelaria was in Colorado, where he found work delivering furniture and cleaning out homes where tenants had been evicted. He racked up a sheaf of traffic tickets and other misdemeanor charges. In all, he was ticketed 21 times.

During that span, his most serious legal scrape — a charge of custodial interference — was filed after he took in a 14-year-old New Mexico boy and brought him to Colorado to live with him. Candelaria pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, but for reasons that are not clear from court records, the boy was allowed to stay with him. Candelaria often told people the young man was his little brother. And despite numerous questions about the state of their relationship, that boy would remain a steadfast supporter of Candelaria's.
More of the Story:

William Zimmerman Arrested for Child Porn

Investigators jailed a 54-year-old man on child pornography charges after he bought illicit videos of child pornography during an undercover mail sting, authorities said in a release.

A detective from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service posed as a commercial DVD retailer and found William J. Zimmerman through a list of people who may have bought similar illegal porn in the past, according to a news release.

The inspector sent Zimmerman a letter — on fictitious company letterhead — and offered child porn via mail order.

Zimmerman, of the 1200 block of 51st Avenue East, was arrested after an undercover agent delivered four DVDs on Friday. After being interrogated, Zimmerman reportedly acknowledged that he intended to buy child porn and had done so other times, according to the release.

He is being held on four felony counts.

Steve Milne Charged with Having Child Porn

A township teenager has been charged with having child pornography on his home computer.

Steve Milne, 19, of Preston Drive was released on his own recognizance after his arrest Thursday by officers from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.

Milne's arrest was the result of an undercover investigation between the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office and the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne J. Forrest said.

An undercover officer located files of underage children engaged in sexual acts and downloaded them from an IP address, Forrest said.

Investigators then obtained the location of the IP address through the Internet provider, and a search warrant was obtained for Milne's home, Forrest said.

In executing the search warrant Thursday, investigators found the files on Milne's computer, Forrest said.

The computer was seized as evidence, the prosecutor said.

Charles Paul Jones Arrested on Child Porn Charges

A 19-year-old Maryville man is in a Blount County jail facing sexual exploitation of a minor charges, according to a release from the Blount County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators found more than 300 child porn images on a computer taken during a search of Charles Paul Jones' home on Carpenters Grade Road.

Jones was not home at the time of the search, but he later turned himself in to Blount County deputies. He brought with him another computer not taken in the search. He's being held on a $50,000 bond.

Deputies say they had been conducting an undercover investigation against Jones for several days prior to his arrest.

Jones is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Aug. 21.

David Hayes Sentenced to 12 Years for Sexual Abuse

David Hayes, 39, of Clifton Park will spend up to 12 years in prison for his conviction on several counts surrounding the sexual abuse of a child. He was convicted on May 15, after a jury trial.

Hayes was sentenced to four years in state prison on one conviction of sexual abuse in the first degree, three years in state prison on two convictions of sexual abuse in the first degree, and two years in state prison on one conviction of sexual abuse in the first degree for a total of 12 years in state prison. The judge directed that the prison terms be served consecutively.

He was also sentenced to three years of post release supervision.

David Burgess Sentenced to 15 years for Child Porn

A former Nevada brothel owner has lost his appeal of his convictions and 15-year prison sentence on federal charges of possessing and transporting child pornography.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver last week affirmed the convictions of David Burgess, a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle group.

Burgess was convicted and sentenced in federal court in Wyoming last year. Prosecutors say investigators found a vast collection of child porn on two hard drives they confiscated from Burgess' motorhome during a traffic stop in western Wyoming two years ago.

Burgess was a charter member of a Nevada chapter of the Hells Angels and was the owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, a legal brothel near Reno, Nev.