|Ryan Schomaker, left, awaits Judge Julie Ward in Campbell County Circuit Court to plead guilty to 18 felony counts in April. FTM file.|
A Fort Thomas man pleaded guilty to rape, sexual abuse, and promoting a sexual performance by a minor in a case involving an 11-year old girl.
Stephen "Ryan" Schomaker, 35, turned himself in at the Campbell County Detention Center today. Last month he pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree rape of a victim under 12, six counts of first degree sexual abuse of a victim under 12, and ten counts of promoting sexual performance by minor (under 16 years of age) on April 28 in Judge Julie Ward's Campbell County Circuit Court.
The Commonwealth has asked the court to sentence Schomaker to 27 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Prior to turning himself in, he had been released on $100,000 bond.
|Ryan Schomaker. Campbell County Detention Center.|
Police were notified in December 2015 of reports that Schomaker had criminal contact with an 11-year old girl, who told her mother that she had been touched inappropriately.
The Children's Advocacy Center conducted a forensic interview leading to a search warrant that led investigators to the defendant's home. Schomaker's phone and tablet were examined by federal officials and photos were discovered that corroborated the victim's statement.
Fort Thomas Police Det. Adam Noe was the lead investigator on the case. He was in court the day Schomaker pleaded guilty a year and a half after Noe started working the case.
"I've been in police work for over fifteen years and I've never had a case that has affected me like this one," said Noe, after hearing Schomaker plead guilty.
"When you get a resolution in a case like this with a very large sentence, that's important, and when you can do that without the juvenile victim having to testify, that's even better."
Noe said that when he was handed the case, he dove in head first. He described hours, days, and weeks of pouring over case files. Noe said that he felt he had given prosecutors Michelle Snodgrass and Sheryl Heeter, a strong case to present, but without a confession and no faces to identify in the pictures that were seized, it wasn't a slam dunk.
"It was tedious," said Noe. "The big question was, How are we going to tie the suspect to the photos that we found? I struggled with it."
Technology assists detectives in building challenging case
Noe said he had a stroke of luck, an assist from the manufacturer of the phone's superior camera that had the ability to take pictures that capture incredible detail.
"Some might call it divine intervention," he said.
Noe said he had gone through the pictures hundreds of times, but hadn't noticed the one clue that would turn the case around.
"I noticed a fingerprint on one of the photos that was believed to be the suspect's hand. I immediately thought there was enough ridge detail on the fingers to make an identification through fingerprints."
Noe brought the images to the Kentucky State Police’s lab in Frankfort where fingerprint analysts used a computer to isolate the fingerprints shown in the photos. Several of the sexually exploitative photographs depicted the ridges of the photographer’s fingers and finger joints.
Armed with another warrant, Noe and KSP collected inked finger and palm prints and detailed photos of Schomaker’s hands.
“They examined the photographic images taken as part of the search warrant and the original case images and were able to identify the suspect as being the person in both photographs,” said KSP Forensic Latent Examiner Supervisor Paul Dorman.
According to Dorman, the techniques used in this case are quite rare with only three occurrences in the U.S. prior to this instance.
Noe said that to get a positive identification on a subject, forensic fingerprints analysts need 7-10 points of interest on a individual print. Because of the high resolution of the picture on the phone's camera, KSP were able to positively identify up to 70 points of interest.
For the victim and her family, who packed the courtroom to hear the guilty plea, there was relief after a long, tough legal journey.
"Adam's dedication to this case was so above and beyond," said Fort Thomas Police Chief, Mike Daly. "This one struck a chord with him and he kept after it until he got justice for that little girl and her family. We're proud of him."
Victim, mother speak about case
The victim's mother told Fort Thomas Matters that she had waited a long time to finally hear Schomaker admit what he had done.
"I'm shocked that a plea deal happened, but am thankful that my daughter didn't have to testify. This whole time he has said he was innocent or that I was making this up, but now he's come to the realization that he can't get out of this. He has to stand up and say that he's guilty," the mother said.
The victim, now 13, with her mother's permission to talk to Fort Thomas Matters, said that she's excited for this to be over.
"I'm happy that he's going to jail and he's not going to be able to see very many people," she said. "My family has been with me the whole time, which has helped me and kept me motivated."
The victim's mother said that she can remember back to when she first got the call from her daughter that something wrong was happening between her and Schomaker.
"She said that something was happening and that I might not believe her, but I don't think there was ever been a moment where I didn't believe her. For her, at 11, to have the courage to stand up to such a monster is a proud moment. She's special," she said.
Schomaker, who had an undisclosed surgery a few weeks prior to the court hearing in April, asked through his attorney, Adam Bleile, if he could stay out on bond until his sentencing date in July. That was denied, but Judge Ward did allow him three weeks to recover in his home, albeit with a warning to continue to comply with his bond conditions.
"You are innocent until proven guilty, but when you come before this court and say that I'm really not innocent, I have committed these offenses, it does change the court's opinion about your bond," Judge Ward said. "These are very serious, disturbing crimes."
"Justice has been served. I don't know that I've had more of a rewarding experience in my law enforcement career," said Noe.
Schomaker will await sentencing on July 11 at noon in Campbell County Circuit Court.