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Child pornography depicting Matthew John Stickle engaging in sexual acts with an underage boy led a detective to label Stickle as the prime suspect in the criminal investigation, a detective testified Wednesday.
Evidence in the case against the 43-year-old Stickle, who is facing 22 felony counts of possessing child pornography with intent to distribute, was presented Wednesday during day two of the trial in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.
An 11-female, three-male jury – two of whom are alternates – will hear closing arguments today and decide whether to find Stickle guilty of downloading 21 videos and one photo of children under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts through a free file-sharing software called Ares.
The investigator in the case, Lt. Scott Little with the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office, said on the stand in front of the jury he found three “contraband” videos “showing the defendant with a minor,” which deterred him from investigating further into other people who may have had access to Stickle’s laptop.
In addition to finding the three videos that allegedly showed Stickle and a minor in a subfolder labeled “X” under the “Videos” folder of the laptop, Little — who works as district coordinator for the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force — said he found videos with title names “pretty typical” of child pornography that showed children engaging in various sexual acts.
The downloaded videos from Ares, which varied in length from a few seconds to more than 20 minutes and were thought to be downloaded to Stickle’s computer between 2010 and 2013, were partially shown to the jury on a 46-inch muted television during Wednesday’s trial.
Circuit Court Judge Michael McGinty had previously ruled the three contraband videos that allegedly involve Stickle were not to be mentioned to the jury during the trial, as they were the subject of felony charges that had been dropped or dismissed in earlier hearings and were not relevant to the trial.
But after Stickle’s attorney Patricia Nagel questioned Little about not pursuing an investigation on Stickle’s roommate from New York — who may have had access to his laptop — Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maureen Kufro asked Little to explain why he made that decision. Little revealed he believed Stickle to be the primary suspect in the case after seeing the videos he said featured Stickle and a minor.
McGinty instructed jurors only to review Little’s statement about the three videos in the context of the question regarding why Little did not further investigate the man Stickle had been living with in New York before he moved to Williamsburg in 2013 with his fiancée, as Stickle is not being charged regarding the three videos in which he is allegedly involved.
Nagel objected to giving the jury any information regarding the three videos, saying it was “highly prejudicial.”
In addition to the 21 child pornography videos, Kufro played for the jury a video of Stickle being interviewed by Little at the Pavilion at Williamsburg Place, an inpatient psychiatric facility, where Stickle had been admitted after attempting to commit suicide.
In the Dec. 29, 2013 interview, Stickle said he downloaded “normal” pornography — which Little clarified in the interview as “adult” pornography — from Internet Explorer but did not know anything about child pornography on his laptop and did not remember ever having the file-sharing software Ares on the laptop.
Evidence in the first two days of the trial showed multiple people, including Stickle’s fiancée and his former roommate, had accessed Stickle’s laptop.
The fiancée testified Tuesday she used Stickle’s computer once to access her gradebook, but Domingo Rivera, Nagel’s digital forensics expert witness, said internet search history showed the school website where Stickle’s fiancée works was used several hundred times on more than one occasion to enter grades and check attendance.
The two were living together in a condominium in the City of Williamsburg at the time of Stickle’s arrest in December 2013.
Stickle now faces a minimum sentence of 65 years in prison for the 22 charges.
The jury reconvenes at 8:30 a.m. today to hear closing arguments and deliberate the finding of guilt.