The text messages that flashed on Jennifer Shipley’s cellphone immediately struck her as strange: “Cute picture.” Then, “Are u M or F?” she testified from the witness stand Tuesday.
Shipley, a mother of two girls from El Dorado County, had just sent a photo of her youngest child to what she thought was her eldest daughter’s cellphone. She misdialed.
On the other end was Jason Samuel Wymer, who prosecutors say preyed on children like the 8-year-old in the picture on his phone, a man who “had a special interest in little kids and child pornography,” said prosecuting Sacramento County deputy district attorney Quirina Orozco.
Details in the first day of Wymer’s child sex trial Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court emerged of how a mother’s errant text message in January 2013 and Wymer’s response ultimately led to the man’s arrest on suspicion of sexually molesting two girls, ages 3 and 5.
Wymer, 44, faces seven counts allegedly committed against the 3-year-old in 2010 and against a second girl in 2011 who was 5 at the time in the trial before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras. The charges include oral sex with a child 10 years or younger, lewd and lascivious acts with a child and knowingly using a minor to assist with obscene matter.
A co-defendant, Stormy Mollissa Myers, 35, pleaded guilty in September to a single count of lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 and to performing oral sex on a child younger than 10. She faces a prison sentence of 15 years to life at her sentencing in February.
On the stand, Shipley recalled how uneasy the unknown person’s texts made her feel and that she nearly deleted the messages. But her eldest daughter, fresh from a school assembly days earlier that featured a visiting FBI agent’s talk on social media safety, told Shipley to save the messages and take them to her school.
“When it started to get weird, my daughter said, ‘Don’t delete that. We should report that,’ ” Shipley said.
Shipley turned over the phone to FBI Special Agent Scott Schofield who had given the safety presentation to the middle-schoolers days earlier and now was quickly ramping up an investigation into the source of the text messages. An agent who investigates violent crimes against children, Schofield testified that he took on the identity of a fictional 8-year-old girl, “Hannah,” and exchanged texts with Wymer for four weeks in January and February 2013.
Schofield said Wymer’s calls were friendly at first, but “increasingly became more sexual in nature.” To maintain his cover, Schofield said he would misspell words as an 8-year-old might, and feign confusion, asking questions of Wymer when the texts became graphic. When Wymer asked “Hannah” to leave a phone message, Schofield testified he used voice altering technology to mimic that of a young girl.
Prosecutor Orozco showed jurors pages of text exchanges. “What do u call your private?” read one message allegedly sent by Wymer. Another read, “I know you could get in trouble, but it would make me very happy.” In another, “Hannah” is asked to read aloud a text message graphically depicting sex acts.
Investigators interviewed Wymer in late February 2013, Schofield testified, uncovering thousands of pornographic images of children stored at Wymer’s Sacramento-area home including images prosecutors said of Wymer performing sexual acts on the two girls.
Testimony resumes Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court.