July 3, 2010

Computer trail leads to suspect

Police say Shawn Sayer used the Internet to harass his ex-girlfriend even after she changed her name.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Biddeford man who police say used the Internet to terrorize his ex-girlfriend for years -- even tracking her down after she changed her name and left Maine -- is in jail on charges stemming from an investigation by the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

click image to enlarge

Trooper Marvin Hinkley handcuffs Shawn Sayer in Biddeford on Thursday. Sayer was arrested after an investigation by the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

Courtesy Maine State Police

Troopers arrested Shawn Sayer, 40, at his home at 23 Marion Ave. on Thursday on charges of violating a protection from abuse order and violating his bail conditions from an earlier charge of violating a protection order.

Sayer is accused of posting lewd propositions on social networking sites that were purported to be from his ex-girlfriend, inviting men to her home or her workplace for kinky sex, said Sgt. Glenn Lang, head of the computer crimes unit.

"Her life has been absolute hell for the last four years," said Lang, who did not identify the woman.

The woman had to counter what Sayer was doing all the time, Lang said. She posted notes on her door saying the Internet invitations were fake, and had special knocks for her friends so she knew it was safe to open the door for them.

Last year, she changed her name and moved to Louisiana, leaving behind her friends and family, Lang said. But Sayer, a self-employed carpenter, discovered her new identity because the court papers documenting the name change weren't sealed, and the harassment resumed, Lang said.

"It was truly a scheme to terrorize and intimidate this girl and destroy a life," he said.

Sayer used photographs and video from the two years they were a couple and posted them on Facebook, MySpace and Craigslist, Lang said. That was reported to law enforcement agencies, some of which didn't take it seriously.

Catching Sayer wasn't easy because he didn't upload the fake postings from his home computer. Instead, Lang said, he took advantage of the hundreds of publicly accessible wireless networks in the Biddeford-Saco area.

When police subpoenaed Internet service provider records to trace the fraudulent postings, they invariably led to wireless networks with no connection to Sayer, Lang said.

Over the course of an eight-month investigation led by Detective Laurie Northrup, detectives retrieved surveillance video from those locations and identified a car that looked identical to Sayer's. The car would park somewhere for 20 minutes, nobody would get out, then it would leave.

In one such case, a witness reported that the driver was using a laptop computer, and the license plate the witness reported was registered to Sayer. Lang said that information helped investigators get a search warrant for Sayer's home and computers. However, when investigators searched the home in November, it appeared that Sayer had been tipped off.

When police arrived to seize his computer equipment, hard drives had been removed and his laptop was gone, Lang said, even though the case and the power cord were there.

Sayer said he had spilled water on the computer and thrown it away.

"Rarely do you have someone that determined to cause that amount of trouble in an anonymous way," Lang said.

State police worked with Saco police and the Secret Service, which put a tracking device on Sayer's car, but Sayer discovered it within a couple of days.

Police eventually determined that the computer that had been used to post the provocative solicitations was also used to update Sayer's own social networking pages.

Sayer was convicted of stalking in the fall of 2007 for charges brought a year earlier. He was given a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation. It is unclear whether that conviction involved the same victim.

Sayer is now being held in the York County Jail pending a bail hearing.

Violating a protection from abuse order is a misdemeanor, punishable by as much as a year in jail. Sayer also could face federal charges because some of the alleged conduct crossed state lines.

"He could be facing some significant time in jail," Lang said, "but nothing compared to what he's put her through."

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:



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