Before their son left on his first hunting trip with Carolina County Judge Jonathan G. Newell, his parents sat him down and found a safety note.
“I said, ‘I know you love Judge Newell, and you think he’s a great guy, and we have no reason to think otherwise, but… we want to make sure you know what to look for. – what to know is acceptable versus unacceptable, ”recalls the boy’s mother.
He never reported any problems to his parents until July 23, when he discovered a hidden camera in the bathroom.
“Please tell me what it is,” the boy sent his mother that morning. “There is a camera in it and it turns on and off pointing at the shower I was in.”
“I am scared.”
Newell, a circuit court judge for five years and before that, the chief prosecutor in Carolina County for more than a decade, committed suicide on Friday morning as the FBI intervened to arrest him on federal charges of sexual exploitation of a child.
After the camera was discovered, authorities say Newell chewed and swallowed a memory card for a camera, but investigators were able to recover a hard drive with videos Newell took of boys in the shower as well as of him checking their body for ticks.
For the parents of the boy who found the camera, the past seven weeks have brought a whole range of emotions, including betrayal in the face of broken trust and frustration over how long the investigation was taking to unfold.
Her mother felt sadness after learning of Newell’s death.
“I didn’t want him to do that. … It’s a terrible thing for anyone to have to come in, ”she said. “And now there is no closure. I wish we had a chance to have this closure, this face to face, “what the hell were you thinking?”
The Sun does not name the parents or their child since he is the victim of a sexual crime.
Her mother said she didn’t know Newell until he made a friend request two years ago, out of the blue, on Facebook. Newell already knew some boys his son was friends with and saw him tagged on their posts.
She agreed to the request and Newell began to like and comment lightly on the photos of her son. She exchanged messages with him – nothing too personal.
Looking back, “he kind of prepared me to join my son,” she said.
Then Newell asked if his son wanted to go on a hunting trip.
“I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know you, would your wife and kids like to come and have dinner with you first?” She recalls.
That’s when he confessed he was going through a divorce, she said. Newell and his wife divorced last year, court records show. Instead, he came near the house and they spoke in the driveway.
The woman’s husband, who also hunts, said the destination on Hoopers Island was “a phenomenal hunting property, the best of the best.”
“I’ve taken children hunting before – that’s what you do,” he said. “I kinda blame myself for letting him go, in hindsight, but if you can’t put your child in the hands of a judge, who can you trust?” “
Why not bring your own children? Newell’s sons were either absent or indifferent, he told them.
Newell took his son rarely – one or two hunting trips a year, with a few fishing trips as well when Newell announced he was going to mow the grass on the Hoopers Island property, the boy’s parents said. They were going to eat something at Old Salty’s, a restaurant on the narrow chain of islands in Dorchester County. Other pairs of children are said to be taken from other weekends, the parents said.
Their son never went alone with Newell. He “loved going out and hanging out with his friends,” his mother said. Newell would check in regularly, send pictures to parents, and post on Facebook, where Newell often posted articles about mentoring boys in the community.
“Everything was fine, until it was not okay anymore,” the boy’s mother said.
When the text message arrived on the morning of July 23, the boy’s parents contacted the parents of the other boy who was also on the trip. This boy’s father is experienced in law enforcement and advised them not to go directly to the hunting lodge, but to come with the police. Everything has to be done by the book, this father explained, and they went to a police station in Denton.
When the parents arrived at the hunting lodge, “the cops came right behind us, seven cars at a time,” recalls the father of the boy who found the camera.
“You could tell from her [Newell’s] expressions and body language that someone took their breath away from their veils, ”he said.
The father said he was relieved that his son had a cell phone, not only so that he could let them know what was going on, but also to take a picture of the camera where he was found, so that he could can be provided to the police.
“I was one of those parents who say, ‘Why does a child need a cell phone?’ “, did he declare. “This whole scenario here, it’s worth every penny we’ve paid.”
Their son is relieved that he doesn’t have to go to court, but his parents say the breach of trust will continue.
“My son considered Jonathan to be a mentor – he thought he was wonderful – and I’m pretty sure he won’t trust a lot of people,” his father said. “It’s going to be hard.”