Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 4, 2014

Spaulding found guilty

Montcalm man guilty of first-degree sexual assault, possessing 50 photos of child pornography

PRINCETON — Hours of tense waiting ended Thursday in tears for one Mercer County family when a jury found a Montcalm man guilty of first-degree sexual assault and possessing 50 child pornography pictures.

The Mercer County Circuit Court jury began its deliberations at 1:30 p.m. and reached a unanimous verdict just before 6 p.m. John Spaulding, 41, of Montcalm, was found guilty on three charges of first-degree sexual assault, and guilty on 50 charges of possessing child pornography. The jury found him not guilty of three other sexual assault charges.

Spaulding faces 25 to 100 years in prison on each of the sexual assault charges due to the age of the victim, a 3-year-old girl, Chief Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said after the verdict was read. He also faces two years imprisonment for each of the child pornography charges. Due to the severity of the charges and the amount of prison time Spaulding is facing, Judge William Sadler revoked his bond and remanded him to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. His mother and other members of his family wept as he was placed in handcuffs and taken away to prepare for transport to the regional jail.

Spaulding’s attorney, Harold Wolfe, said he planned to file a motion for a new trial. Sadler scheduled a hearing date for June 2 to consider the motion and possibly sentence Spaulding if the motion is denied.

During his closing statement Thursday, Sitler said the evidence pointed to Spaulding's guilt. The 50 images found on his laptop computer, which was found when the West Virginia State Police executed a search warrant at his home, was only a “small slice” of the 11,386 child pornography images that were found.

Spaulding told investigators at a July 27, 2012 interview that he knew the child pornography was on his laptop, Sitler said. Some of the pictures Spaulding was charged with possessing were of a 14-year-old girl. The photos were in a file bearing the girl's name. Pictures of a 3-year-old girl were in another folder with that child's name. Troopers also found a wipe program on a compact disc; the program was designed to clean a computer completely of files, Sitler said.

“If he knew they were there, and he had seen they were there, he's guilty as charged,” Sitler told the jury.

There were also text messages from Spaulding asking his former friend, 38-year-old Kimberly Cox of Nemours, for more explicit pictures of her 14-year-old daughter, Sitler said. While many of the text messages were “mundane,” the “awful ones” were among them, he added.

Spaulding told investigators he knew there were “tons” of child pornography pictures on his computer, but he did not know about them until Cox informed him. Cox, who later pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges of her own, testified against Spaulding Tuesday and said he had asked for the photos.

Sitler acknowledged that Cox had told lies in the past and made up stories during the investigation. The case began when child pornography showed up on her laptop after her boyfriend pawned it in Bluefield.

Cox agreed to testify at Spaulding’s trial as part of her plea agreement.

The defense had argued that the prosecution “made up the assault,” but Sgt. M.K. Summers of the West Virginia State Police Turnpike detachment was investigating this incident before Cox said anything, Sitler said.

A report by Sgt. D.C. Eldridge of the West Virginia State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, who examined Spaulding's computer, show child pornography images that were accessed repeatedly. And when Spaulding was asked where he had his cell phone, he replied, “I'd rather not say,” Sitler said.

Sitler argued that Cox did not fabricate the story in which she took a 3-year-old girl in her care in February 2012 and met with Spaulding at the Economy Inn in Bluefield so he could sexually assault the child. At that point in the investigation, Cox was not in any trouble, he said.

Other texts were from the child's family, asking when Cox would bring her home. Cox had said that she was taking the girl to a sleep over, and she was using the child as “bait” to keep Spaulding's interest, Sitler said.

Cox had created a false person named “Anna” on the Internet, and kept up the illusion for several years by going with Spaulding to several cities in order to find her. Spaulding even proposed to the fictional Anna, and exchanged telephone calls and text messages with her without realizing he was actually communicating with Cox. Cox created up to 60 different male and female identities, and simulated conversations between them and her, the defense argued during the trial.

Cox told investigators that Spaulding had asked for explicit pictures of her daughter and requested more that she would send by cell phone.

Sitler said the text messages backed up a credible story. There was a four-hour gap in February 2012 when the sexual assault occurred at the Economy Inn.

“You can't destroy it,” Sitler said of the text records. “You can't wipe it out. You get caught in the web of modern technology and you can't say it never happened. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that there was a sexual assault in the motel that day.”

In his closing statement, Wolfe said investigators had to look carefully for Cox's child pornography files, but his client's were found easily. Spaulding’s computer was not password protected, and it was readily available to Cox whenever she visited Spaulding's home; in contrast, her computer and cell phones were password protected.

“This was a set up. It was always a set up,” Wolfe said to the jury. “She had the motive to buy some time.”

Cox was able to create many false identities to deceive people and get money and goods from them, Wolfe said. Wolfe reminded the jury that she created conversations, too.

“That was her MO. That was her way of making it look like it was real,” he said. “Most (of texts) look simple and mundane. We know it was fake because it was from her to her. She was an expert at it.”

Cox also used the false identities as excuses, he added. In one instance, she blamed references to bestiality on her computer on a man and woman she had created.

“She always throws the blame on other people,” Wolfe stated. “The fact is that when she's cornered or asked to take responsibility, she blames someone else. That's who she is.”

Many of the images found on Spaulding's computer were opened only briefly “to make sure they were there” after Cox put them there, Wolfe said.

Cox was facing between 169 and 420 years in prison before implicating Spaulding, he said. When Cox spoke about sexual assaults, she kept changing the scene from the Economy Inn to the neighboring Econo Lodge in Bluefield, he added. The assault occurred in February 2012 at the Economy Inn. Cox said a second incident happened at the Econo Lodge a short time later.

The prosecution showed the jury a photograph of Spaulding that was taken from Cox's cell phone, Summers said later. The picture, showing Spaulding with long hair and tattoos, matched a description from Econo Lodge management of a man seen with Cox at the time of the alleged second assault. Sitler said there were no texts of this second assault because Cox and Spaulding met at the motel. In the Economy Inn incident, Cox arrived first with the child.

Timothy Vickers, a forensic interviewer with Just For Kids, said he interviewed the 3-year-old, then age 4, in July 2012. She became upset when asked about being touched, and the interview stopped. He said it was not unusual for a child that young not to remember all the details of a sexual assault.

A relative of the two girls, Kimberly Dawn, 46, of Nemours said she was pleased with the verdict.

“We got justice. I’m happy,” she said. “Maybe the kids can enjoy their lives now.”

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