HENDERSON — An attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan G. Newell ended with his death early Friday morning, by a gunshot wound to the head. His death is being investigated as a suicide.
Mr. Newell had been on leave since July.
Charging documents unsealed Friday morning described a minor victim’s discovery of a camera in a shower in a cabin in Fishing Creek.
The child took photos of the camera and told another boy about its presence in the shower. Both informed their parents, who contacted law enforcement on the same day.
Discovery of Newell’s body
Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Dorchester County State’s Attorney William H. Jones and Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley provided the following statement Friday regarding the death of Jonathan Newell:
“This morning agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation went to the residence of Jonathan Newell, age 50, of Henderson, Maryland, to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint filed on September 9, 2021. Upon entering the residence, the agents found Newell suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m. Maryland State Police will lead the investigation into the apparent suicide.”
Shortly after 6 a.m., word began to circulate on social media that police from multiple agencies were at Newell’s home.
Neighbors said they heard demands from the officers that Newell come out of the house. When he did not, officers entered the home, where Newell was found dead.
Absent from court in July
The first hints of trouble came in late July, after Mr. Newell had been absent from his courtroom for a week. Word later came out that he was on paid leave, while another judge filled in.
Police cars were seen at the judge’s house early in the morning of July 24. Charging documents first seen on Sept. 10 answered questions as to their presence — officers were gathering evidence related to the cabin in Fishing Creek.
The charging documents say that on July 23, investigators from the Maryland State Police responded to the cabin, regarding a minor who had located a video camera in the bathroom. The investigators interviewed two minor males.
The first, Minor Victim 1, born in 2006, said he and another minor male spent the night with Newell on July 22.
In the morning, Victim 1 entered the bathroom adjacent to Newell’s bedroom to shower. “After undressing, Minor Victim 1 observed what appeared to be a camera,” the charging document says. “The camera was on a shelf in the corner of the bathroom, inside a small black utility crate. The lens of the camera was facing the shower. Minor Victim 1 examined the camera and took photographs of it with his cell phone.”
He then placed the camera back in its initial position, and left the bathroom. He contacted Minor Victim 2, to tell him about the camera.
Victim 1 then observed Newell enter the bathroom, and leave with miscellaneous items. The two boys then reentered the bathroom, and discovered that the camera was no longer there. Later, while on Newell’s boat, the two informed their parents about the incidents.
When investigators arrived, Newell waived his Miranda rights and consented to an interview. He denied knowledge of the camera, and told investigators others had been in the cabin, saying, “Like I said, there was six other people here.”
During the investigation, Newell was observed sitting on his bed and reaching underneath, saying he was recharging his phone. He was seen placing his right fist to his mouth.
“A few minutes later, the investigator heard a loud, distinguishable ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth, followed by another a minute or two later.
Newell later gave the investigators a black rectangular box, with a slot for an SD card and what appeared to be a camera lens. The SD slot was empty, the document said, and the device appeared to be the same one photographed by the victim.
The document said Newell told investigators something similar to, “This is what you’re looking for.”
On July 24, investigators escorted Newell to a nearby hospital with a warrant to obtain CT scans of his chest and abdomen/pelvis. The “After Visit Summary” included the following: “IMPRESSION: 18mm linear possibly metallic foreign body within the small bowel.”
“Diagnosis: Foreign Body Ingestion.”
State search warrants were executed in the cabin, and in Newell’s home, truck, boat and office. Numerous digital devices were seized, and were being examined.
In some of the videos, Newell is seen setting up the camera in the bathroom. In others are images of victims showering, and Newell touching the victims.
FBI Special Agent Rachel S. Corn stated in the document, “I respectfully submit that there is probably cause to believe that Jonathan Gray Newell violated 18 U.S.C. §2251(a)(Sexual Exploitation of a Child).”
The criminal complaint has been unsealed and is publicly available at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/ Case No. 1:21-mj-02533-JMC. Incidents of a disturbing nature are described in the document.
Mr. Newell took over his post in August of 2016. He had served as state’s attorney for Caroline County for 13 years. A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.