crime & courts

Students and recent grad accused of molestation plead not guilty, out on bond

After one IU student accused of child molestation was released from jail on bond Wednesday two more men accused of molesting the same girl appeared in court to plead not guilty. One of the men accused is an IU student and the other is a recent graduate.

Master’s student and IU biology employee Matthew Filipek, 23, is already out on bond. Kelley School of Business graduate Thomas Snape, 23, was planned to be released on bond Thursday night after a judge signed off to return him to his parents’ suburban Chicago home.

Both men allegedly had sex on separate occasions with a 13-year-old girl they met on the social media app Whisper. IU student George Pearcy, 21, and Evan Miller, 25, were also arrested and charged with child molestation in the same investigation.

Snape’s parents attended the initial hearing and expected to take him with them to their home in Northbrook, Illinois, Snape’s attorney told Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Todd. They promised to keep Snape confined to their home.

In the courtroom, another woman, waiting on her own hearing, responded loudly to the news the accused child molester may get to go home.

“Oh, hell no,” she screamed before being escorted out by a bailiff. “That’s poison. He needs to go.”

Snape’s father, Allan Snape, a retired business executive from England, told the judge he still has family in Britain but his son does not visit often.

Snape has both United States and British passports, which his attorney said would be handed over if he were allowed to leave with his parents. Todd agreed, on the conditions that Snape stay within Indiana and Illinois and relinquish his passports, which are at his parents’ home, by Feb. 27.

Filipek, who had been released on bond earlier in the day, had a shorter hearing. He entered his plea, and one of his two attorneys requested a jury trial.

Miller, who has a criminal history that includes a battery charge, appears to be in jail still. Miller was arrested Feb. 2. The other three men were arrested earlier this week.

Pearcy posted bail Wednesday, according to MyCase, an online database of Indiana civil and criminal cases.

Pearcy is a junior studying political science and American history, according to his LinkedIn page. He was an intern at the office of the Bloomington City Clerk Nicole Bolden, but his employment was terminated once the office was informed of the charges, Bolden said.

Pearcy’s Facebook page, which appears to have been deleted since Wednesday, identified him as an associate editor for the IU Journal of Undergraduate Research. IUJUR editor-in-chief Rayne Kim said Pearcy has not been to a meeting in two years and is not affiliated with the publication.

As of December, Pearcy was the parliamentarian for IU Student Association, though his name no longer appears on the organization’s website. His LinkedIn page says he’s been politically involved since at least age 14, when he worked on a state-wide campaign for the first time. His Instagram page is filled with pre-election endorsements for politicians including John Gregg, Evan Bayh and, by way of a back tattoo, Bernie Sanders.

Filipek has substantially less visible internet presence. He does not appear to have a public Instagram or Twitter account. His LinkedIn page, which identifies him as a Knights of Columbus officer and the graduate advisor for IU’s biotechnology club, focuses on his work in labs at IU, including biology professor Keith Clay’s research laboratory. According to the page, he’s worked there since May 2015, first as a research assistant and then as a project supervisor.

Clay said he doesn’t know Filipek well outside of his lab work, but he was surprised to see news of his arrest. He said he’s keeping in mind Filipek hasn’t been found guilty of anything, but he also knows the accusation is likely to have long-term consequences.

“I saw it in the paper this morning, and that’s the first I heard about it,” Clay said. “I was shocked and disappointed and sorry for everybody involved.”

Whisper, the social media app through which authorities believe the men met the girl, has been part of other sex crime investigations. In August, a man from Fargo, North Dakota, was charged with attempting to lure minors after he made posts looking for pre-teen girls for sexual purposes. Last March, a man in Oswego, Illinois, was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met through the app.

The app allows users to post public, anonymous messages that other users in their area can then reply to publicly or privately. The app’s total number of users exceeds 30 million, according to an Adweek profile of the startup from November, with 17 billion pieces of content seen by users each month.

On Thursday, the app showed a handful of posts with possible illicit or sexual connotations in the Bloomington area.

“Trying to get high?” one queried. “HMU I got what you need.”

“m21 (21-year-old male) haven’t had a sleepover in a while,” another said.

“Netflix and chill with your boy?” one asked.

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