Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 7, 2014

Spaulding takes the stand

Defendant testifies in third day of trial

PRINCETON — A Mercer County man facing multiple charges of sexual assault, sexual abuse and 50 counts of possessing child pornography testified Thursday in circuit court.

John Spaulding, 41, of Montcalm, was in the third day of his trial when he took the stand. He had been charged with sexual assault first degree, sexual abuse first degree, attempt to commit a felony and 50 counts of possession of material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The alleged victims were 3 and 14, according to court documents.

Members of Spaulding’s family and former coworkers testified Thursday morning that Spaulding’s laptop computer and cell phone were frequently used by his former friend, 38-year-old Kimberly Cox, of Nemours. Child pornography images were found in his laptop after the West Virginia State Police located it while executing a search warrant at his home.

Cox pleaded guilty in November 2012 to sexual assault and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian. She must serve at least 25 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole, and must register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. Testifying at Spaulding’s trial was part of the plea agreement.

Spaulding’s mother, Sandra Spaulding, testified that her son met Cox through a fictitious friend, “Anna,” that Cox had created on the Internet. As a friend of the fictitious friend, Cox became a regular visitor at the Spaulding home, she said. John Spaulding would travel out of state with Cox to meet Anna, but “for some reason or another, Anna wouldn’t show up.” Anna would suffer misfortunes such as losing her father and then her mother, and then being diagnosed with cancer.

Sandra Spaulding said anyone in the family was free to use her son’s laptop computer, and Cox would use it when visiting. Cox also kept four cell phones with her, and would use her son’s cell phone at times.

Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler asked more questions about John Spaulding’s relationship with Cox.

“Mrs. Spaulding, I apologize to you for the position you are in,” Sitler said. “No mother should have to sit in that chair.”

Sandra Spaulding said she thought Cox and her son “were just good friends” and were not lovers. Cox would sleep in John’s room while he slept on the couch, she said.

John Spaulding’s laptop was password protected when he first purchased it, but not later. It was found under his pillow when the state police searched the home.

“It would have been hidden better if he tried to hide it,” Sandra Spaulding said.

Another witness, Jerry Shrader Jr., testified he had worked with John Spaulding at Bluefield Beverage in Bluefield, Va. Cell service was unavailable in the warehouse where they worked, but Spaulding would plug in his cell phone and allow coworkers to play games on it; however, there were times when Spaulding would say Cox had his phone, Shrader said.

Cox’s former boyfriend and the father of her two children, James “Yogi” Workman of Mercer County, testified he also knew of the Anna identity Cox had created and even talked to Anna on the telephone, not knowing he was actually speaking with Cox.

John Spaulding took the stand early Thursday afternoon, and when questioned by his attorney, Harold Wolfe, he recalled meeting Cox’s alter ego, Anna, on the Internet in 2007, and later became a friend of Cox, who said she knew Anna. Spaulding and Cox took trips out of state to see Anna at hospitals and other facilities, only to learn she had moved on or been transferred to another facility.

Spaulding said the accounts he heard always had “a little truth” to them, and believed for years that Anna actually existed. In one instance, Anna sent messages saying she had been transferred to a psychiatric facility where personnel would not release information about patients. Anna would request money for food, shelter, or medical care, he said. Spaulding said he “could not put a price,” on the amount of money he gave Anna, but said he could not afford to move from his parents’ home.

He told Sitler during cross-examination that he learned the truth about Anna after Cox was arrested and he did image searches on the Internet. The image representing Anna belonged to another person. Spaulding also stated that he found other fictional people created by Cox.

“She played the stuff to a T. She played it to the extreme,” Spaulding said of Cox.  Cox would also claim she was being stalked.

When Sitler cross-examined Spaulding, he started with a statement Spaulding gave the Sgt. M.K. Summers and Sgt. D.C. Eldridge of the West Virginia State Police on July 27, 2013 in which he told investigators there were a “ton” of child pornography images on his laptop. Spaulding said he had not slept for more than five of the last 48 hours before giving that interview. He added that Cox had told him earlier about the images in the computer, and suggested his late brother, Jackie Spaulding II, had placed them there. Spaulding told Sitler he didn’t bring this up with investigators during questioning because he did not want to suggest he was blaming the images on his brother.

“You denied you ever blamed it on Jackie?” Sitler asked.

“I never blamed it on him,” Spaulding replied.

Sitler then questioned Spaulding about the loss of his cell phone, and Spaulding replied he explained how he lost it earlier after a meeting with Cox.

“I’m sure you have a smooth statement about everything, Mr. Spaulding,” Sitler said. “You had a year to think about it.”

Sitler later asked Spaulding how he could have believed Anna existed even though he had never met her personally in four to five years. Spaulding admitted he had purchased an expensive ring for Anna and would have asked her to marry him if she ever “returned” to Mercer County.

“I never denied that I was an idiot,” Spaulding said.

When questioned about his computer skills, Spaulding said he didn’t know how to create folders like the ones holding the pornography in his computer. He said he would usually leave the computer on his bed, and Cox had visited him before the state police arrived with the search warrant and could have placed it under the pillow. Spaulding insisted if he had wanted to hide his computer, it would never have been found.

“You would like to think that I’m smart enough to avoid a camera at a hotel, and think I’m dumb enough to leave a computer under a pillow,” Spaulding told Sitler.

Spaulding denied he ever arranged with Cox to meet with her in February 2012 at a Bluefield motel so he could sexually assault a child in her care. At that time, he was caring for his family after the death of his brother in January 2012, he stated.

“What does Kimberly Cox have against you?” Sitler inquired.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what issues she has or what she was thinking,” Spaulding said.

Spaulding stated that even if he were found not guilty, he would be watched the rest of his life.

“I would probably like to die right now,” he said. “This is going to hang over me the rest of my life.”

The jury is scheduled to hear closing statements and instructions Friday morning before beginning their deliberations.

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