State seeking 50-year sentence against man on child sex abuse, porn charges

March 04, 2013|By DON AINES |

Robert William Mulkern Jr., who went missing for more than two years and was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” before being apprehended last year in Vermont, pleaded guilty to child pornography and child sex abuse charges Monday in Washington County Circuit Court and could face 50 years in prison when sentenced later this year.

Mulkern, 46, formerly of Hagerstown and Williamsport, pleaded guilty before Judge Donald E. Beachley to one count of sex abuse of a minor, five counts of manufacturing child pornography and two counts of third-degree sex offense. Beachley ordered a mental health evaluation and a presentence investigation, and said sentencing could take place in about six weeks.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said the state is asking for a 50-year sentence, though the charges Mulkern pleaded guilty to carry a total of 95 years. Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa will be able to argue for a lesser sentence.

In March 2009, a 15-year-old Allegany County girl was placed in a foster home in Hagerstown in which Mulkern rented a basement apartment, Wilson said in reading the statement of facts. The girl and Mulkern soon became involved in a sexual relationship, he said.

That relationship was documented on a digital camera Mulkern owned by photos dated April 15, 2009, Wilson said.

The girl later was returned to the custody of her mother, but she left and moved in with Mulkern at an address on Spielman Road near Williamsport, where the sexual relationship continued, Wilson said.

The Missing Persons Unit of the Maryland State Police found the girl at Mulkern’s home, but both told police the relationship was platonic, Wilson said. The girl, who was on juvenile probation, was placed in juvenile detention, he said.

In 2010 the girl, who was pregnant by Mulkern, was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center about her relationship with Mulkern, Wilson said.

Mulkern had moved from the Spielman Road address and, for a time, lived in a room in a warehouse, Wilson said. It was there that the owner of the property found the digital camera, which was later turned over to police.

Mulkern, who appeared to cry briefly during Monday’s hearing, was initially charged with five counts of third-degree sex offense, three counts of perverted practices and one count of making child pornography, court records said. He was found living in a wooded area near Halfway and was committed to the Washington County Detention Center in March 2010, but post $75,000 bond in April, court records said.

In June 2010, Mulkern was charged by warrant with 149 counts of manufacturing child pornography, nine counts of third-degree sex offense and one count of sex abuse of a minor, all related to conduct with the same girl.

Wilson cited photos taken on July 13, Aug. 4, Aug. 23, and Sept. 18, 2009, depicting the girl in sexual poses or engaged in sexual acts with Mulkern at the Spielman Road address. The Sept. 18 photos also showed the girl engaged in sex with another man, Michael Zimmer, Wilson said.

In September 2010, Mulkern failed to show up in circuit court for trial on his initial charges.

On Nov. 1, 2012, Mulkern was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Vermont Violent Offenders Task Force in Windsor, Vt.

After the plea hearing, Wilson said Mulkern had been living under an assumed name in Vermont, but when he became involved romantically with a woman, another man provided information to authorities that led to his arrest.

During the time he was missing, Mulkern was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” twice, the most recent airing on June 22, 2012, the Marshals Service said.

Zimmer, 42, of Finksburg, Md., pleaded guilty in October 2010 to four counts of child pornography is exchange for 62 other charges being dismissed, court records said. Zimmer was sentenced to five years in prison, court records said.

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