WEST NEWBURY — Connecticut and Texas men are facing sex crime charges for engaging a West Newbury girl in "sexting," exchanging sexually explicit material through cell phone cameras and text messages.
The two-month police investigation began when the wife of Stephen Fournier, 23, Mashantucket, Conn., contacted a West Newbury mother. She had found sexually explicit photos and text messages exchanged between her husband and the girl, whose age police would only identify as "less than 16," on her husband's cell phone, West Newbury Sgt. Jeffrey Durand said. It's a phenomenon known by its slang name, "sexting."
Fournier, who was subsequently kicked out of his house by his wife, was arraigned in Newburyport District Court and charged with two counts of posing a child in the nude and one count of sending obscene material to a minor. He is out on personal recognizance with a next court date of July 7.
And in Texas, due to the same investigation, Jason Gilbert, 22, of Silsbee faces similar charges brought by the Silsbee Police Department. Gilbert is out on $50,000 bail.
Police started investigating when they were contacted by the alarmed mother of the girl.
"I interviewed the mother and her child; they were cooperative," Durand said. "We gave the cell phone to Sgt. Thomas Neff of the state police, who was able to do a forensic analysis of the cell phone, downloading the information."
With that information, Durand went to police in Connecticut who began their own investigation, interviewing Fournier, obtaining his statement. Sharing the statement with Durand, he was able to file charges. Durand said Fournier knew he was corresponding with a minor child.
"The court issued a summons for Fournier, but he didn't get it because his wife had thrown him out of the house," Durand said. "The court then issued a warrant for him. I was able to talk to him and convince him to turn himself in. He has no other record. Connecticut police didn't find anything else."
Durand said Fournier first met the West Newbury youth through a relative. They exchanged cell phone numbers, and the relationship grew inappropriately.
"And it led to this," Durand said. "It's an unfortunate sign of the times we live in."
Durand believes Connecticut police may also be bringing charges against Fournier in his home state.
It was further investigation into the West Newbury youth's cell phone that led Durand to Gilbert in Texas.
"I found on April 14 she had received 52 text messages from a guy named Jason," Durand said. "After I investigated, I found it was Jason Gilbert, from Silsbee. He'd been carrying on this relationship with her for three years. There were some pretty nasty pictures."
Placing a call to police in Texas, Durand got the help he needed. Silsbee police got and executed a search warrant at Gilbert's home, confiscating his phone, computers and other items. Finding evidence, they filed charges against him for violating the Texas statutes of sexual performance of a child, Durand said.
Durand expects he may also bring charges against Gilbert after he receives more evidence from Texas law enforcement officials.
"When Texas is done with their forensic study at the end of this, I'm almost afraid of what we'll find," Durand said.