BEDFORD — A former Liberty University professor was found guilty Wednesday of five counts of child sex solicitation after messaging a person he thought was a 13-year-old girl.
Stephen James Kilpatrick, 64, of Forest, sat through a two-day trial in Bedford County Circuit Court before the
jury of seven women and five men returned five guilty verdicts, according to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Stickney.
The jury recommended he serve 35 years in prison. He was taken to jail following the trial Wednesday evening, Stickney said. A sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 20.
Kilpatrick’s charges stemmed from communication he had from November 2017 to June 2018 with an investigator from the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, who was posing as a local 13-year-old girl named “Jenny.”
Kilpatrick was a professor of physics at LU during the time of the incident but has since been fired, his family said in earlier court proceedings.
Investigator Jake Wade testified to making an undercover post on Craigslist’s “casual encounters” board in mid-November 2017. In it, he depicted a person who’d moved to the Lynchburg area recently who was “bored” and looking for something to do.
A reply to the ad from a man named “Dave” — which Wade said he later learned to be an alias Kilpatrick was using — six days later was “of a sexual nature.” Wade and Kilpatrick then started using Craigslist’s email function to send messages to each other.
During the first few weeks of chatting, Kilpatrick asked questions of “Jenny” like her living situation and her high school, Wade said.
By mid-December, “Dave” was asking “Jenny” about her bra size, Wade said. At that time, he said, he informed Kilpatrick that “Jenny” was 13 years old.
Wade said Kilpatrick was acknowledging “Jenny’s” age and the fact that she was in eighth grade while they communicated into early January, their conversations starting to take a sexual turn. Kilpatrick also was asking for selfies of “Jenny” and pictures of her clothing and underwear.
He began to start asking to meet with “Jenny” by mid-January, Wade said.
In June, he and other law enforcement officers set up that meeting.
On June 27, Wade said he watched Kilpatrick get out of his car, which he described to “Jenny” at one point, outside the Neighborhood Walmart in Forest and return with some items. Wade followed the car back to a neighborhood nearby, where he and other officers apprehended Kilpatrick. He had cookies and lubricant in his car, according to search warrants and testimony in the case.
Defense attorney Matthew Pack questioned some of Kilpatrick’s coworkers, fellow professors in LU’s mathematics department, who said he had an “excellent” professional reputation and was well-respected among faculty and students.
Pastors and members of his church, Bedrock Community Church, spoke similarly of his character.
Kilpatrick said he moved to the area when he took a position at LU in 2013.