Caroline County Judge About to be Arrested for Sexual Exploitation of a Child Found Dead in Eastern Shore Home

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A Caroline County Circuit Court judge who was about to be arrested for a federal charge of sexual exploitation of a child on Friday morning apparently shot and killed himself as FBI agents and law enforcement officials arrived at his Eastern Shore home.

The case against Jonathan G. Newell was filed under seal in U.S. District Court on Thursday was dismissed upon his death Friday.

According to the criminal complaint unsealed Friday, Newell faced a charge of sexual exploitation of a child on Sept. 28, 2014.

The criminal investigation into Newell, who had been on a paid leave of absence from the Judiciary since July 26, began after police were called to a cabin in Fishing Creek on July 23 to investigate sexual abuse claims.

According to a criminal complaint, two teenage boys spent the night with Newell at his cabin on the night of July 22. The following morning, one teen found a hidden video camera in Newell’s bathroom as he was undressing to take a shower. He took a picture of the camera, which was aimed in the direction of the shower, according to the complaint.

The boy left the bathroom to show the other child the picture he had taken. Shortly after, Newell was allegedly seen going into the bathroom and exiting with several objects.

When the boys entered the bathroom to examine the camera, they found it had been removed, according to prosecutors.

The boys contacted their parents and police were called to the cabin later that day.

When police arrived, Newell denied having a camera in the bathroom and said that multiple other people had access to the cabin and had recently stayed there, according to the complaint. At the close of the interview, Newell went into his bedroom to charge his phone and make calls.

According to the complaint, one investigator then heard a “loud, distinguishable, ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth.”

Newell was asked to leave the bedroom, and an investigator searched under the bed and saw what appeared to be the camera from the photo. The camera had a slot for an SD card, but no card was found, according to the complaint.

On July 24, investigators escorted Newell to a local hospital with a warrant to obtain CT scans of his pelvis, abdomen and chest. The scans revealed that Newell had ingested an item, described in medical records as “18 mm linear possibly metallic foreign body within the small bowel,” according to the complaint.

Police recovered digital devices including an external hard drive from Newell’s home in Henderson. A search of the hard drive revealed videos of minor males in a bathroom; file names indicated they were recorded in 2014.

As of earlier this week, seven other teen boys had been interviewed as part of the criminal investigation, according to prosecutors. All described having showered at Newell’s cabin, and “nearly all” of them said that Newell would check their bodies for ticks while in the bathroom; at least two said they were naked at the time, according to the complaint.

At the time of his death, Newell’s electronics were still being examined, according to prosecutors.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. (R) appointed Newell, 50, as a circuit court judge in Caroline County in 2016. He had previously served as Caroline County’s State’s Attorney for 13 years.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

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Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.