Former Liberty University professor found guilty on child sex crime charges
A Bedford County jury found Stephen Kilpatrick, 63, guilty on three counts of computer solicitation of a minor and two counts of computer solicitation, second or subsequent offense.
The jury recommended Kilpatrick be sentenced to 35 years in prison, which is the mandatory minimum sentence.
The charges stem from Nov. of 2017 when Kilpatrick, who was a mathematics professor at LU at the time, responded to an advertisement posted on Craigslist that read, "hey guys...I'm really bored,” stating that the person was new to the area and asked, “any suggestions?”
According to testimony heard in Bedford County Circuit Court Tuesday and Wednesday, Kilpatrick responded to the ad using a different name and sexually explicit language.
The sexually explicit messages would continue between the two people for months, without Kilpatrick knowing that the person writing to him was an undercover investigator for the sheriff’s office with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
Throughout the course of the conversations, Investigator JM Wade told Kilpatrick he was a 13-year-old girl named Jenny. In the messages, read aloud in court Tuesday, Kilpatrick asked about Jenny's clothing, underwear, and talked about sexual acts.
The messages ended after seven months, in June of 2018, when investigators planned a “take-down operation.”
According to search warrants, Kilpatrick stopped in Forest at a, “Walmart to purchase cookies for the 13-year-old female child he planned to meet." Officers intercepted the meeting and arrested and charged Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick's defense team argued that he was "entrapped." Matthew Pack, Kilpatrick’s defense attorney, stated that he did not have a criminal background or history of soliciting children and argued that officers were inviting someone to commit a crime.
For the first time, jurors heard from Kilpatrick Wednesday. He took the witness stand and told the jury that he never thought he was messaging a 13-year-old girl, but was taking part in a fantasy with an adult woman who was pretending to be 13. He said that he was creating a persona and that he was messaging a persona as part of "fantasy communication," never believing that it was an actual 13-year-old.
"The moment you question a fantasy, you terminate the fantasy," said Kilpatrick, from the witness stand.
Kilpatrick added that he often scrolled through and responded to ads on Craigslist. He said it helped him get away from the frustrations of home-life and he saw it as a form of entertainment, trying to ascertain if the person who was posting was a real person or not.
"I was trying to get her to break her persona," said Kilpatrick. "Everything can be fake in fantasy communication."
Pack also argued that Investigator Wade broke two Craigslist policies by using the site as someone who was supposed to be under the age of 18 and by posting false or misleading information.
A judge will sentence Kilpatrick at a later date.