Saturday, December 2, 2023

Jury to Deliberate on Child Pornography Case Today

Matthew John Stickle (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Matthew John Stickle (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

Matthew Stickle’s ex-fiancée said she fell in love with him the moment they met.

It’s why she remembers the exact date they met – June 21, 2012 – and why the meeting quickly turned into courtship, with her taking a trip to Binghamton, New York the next month to visit him.

A little more than a year later, the two started living together in her City of Williamsburg home and were engaged Sept. 13, 2013 – a date she also remembered during her testimony in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

She also remembers the date of one of the worst moments of her life: Dec. 27, 2013, when Williamsburg Police investigators came to her home with a search warrant for all the electronic devices in her home because they suspected they would find child pornography.

She said she felt “absolute shock, horror, disgust” as the investigators outlined what they suspected and said she cooperated as best she could.

But Stickle’s ex-fiancée, a middle school teacher, does not remember too many other dates in the months that came after.

Stickle, who is on trial this week, faces more than 20 child pornography-related charges after investigators found hundreds of images and videos on his computer. The teacher said during the weeks and months afterward she struggled with a “nervous breakdown” that has made it difficult for her to keep all her facts straight.

Defense Attorney Patricia Nagel drilled her on what she said to investigators and when, most notably her original claim that she had never used Stickle’s computer but then remembered more than a year later she had in fact used it once to enter grades into a program she had trouble accessing on her own computer.

Nagel repeatedly asked her to recall dates and her testimony from the several hearings – and a trial that ended in June with a hung jury – that have occurred over the past two years, and the teacher struggled to piece it all together.

Stickle’s ex-fiancée had already been characterized as an unreliable witness and a possible suspect in Nagel’s opening statement Monday, and Nagel continued to push that argument during her time on the stand Tuesday.

“My life has been turned upside down,” she said, exasperated by the repeated questioning.

Her testimony came after two other witnesses called by Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green took the stand, one for no more than five minutes and the other for several hours.

A man from Upstate New York was shown an explicit photo and asked to identify the people in it – Stickle with his son, who was 10 years old in the photo, he said. He could identify Stickle, he said, because Stickle used to be engaged to his ex-wife.

That short testimony followed hourslong questioning of the case’s lead investigator, Lt. Scott Little, who showed footage of one of the videos for which Stickle is charged and provided oral testimony to describe the other 24. Little works for the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office and is the district coordinator for the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

Three of those videos, none of which were shown in court, have Stickle performing sexual acts with a child, Little said.

Nagel questioned Little about whether he followed leads to interview other suspects, noting he has had several roommates, including his ex-fiancée in Williamsburg, during the same time period the videos appear to have been downloaded onto his computer.

Little said he did not believe he needed to interview other suspects because there were no other suspects.

“There was no one other than Mr. Stickle who had access to that computer consistently for that time period [2010-2013],” he said. “… I have been doing this for more than 20 years. I know how to follow leads.”

Two other witnesses, both for the defense, testified before the end of the day – Stickle’s childhood friend and computer forensics expert Domingo Rivera.

Stickle’s friend, who moved away from their hometown in the mid-90s, testified he had stayed in Stickle’s home overnight several times throughout the years. He told the court he had met Stickle’s roommates and noted he had seen one in particular on his computer on several occasions.

The forensics expert testified he did not disagree with Little’s testimony, but also found indications Stickle’s ex-fiancée had used the computer because a site affiliated with her school, which required a login, showed in the browser history. He said there was no indication she is the one who downloaded the child pornography found on the computer, as it is not possible to know with absolute certainty who did.

With both sides rested, no other evidence will be presented. When the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday, closing arguments will be given before the jury is sent to deliberate.

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