A former WHIO-TV employee who was taunted and harassed relentlessly online for six years, said the fallout has left him "a shell of who I once was."
The former employee wanted to remain anonymous because he has left the Miami Valley to start a new life, but he spoke out at the sentencing of his cyberstalker last week in a Greene County courtroom. In his victim impact statement, he told the court that Jillian Sticka is a predator, who also ensnared his friends and "spends all of her time trying to destroy people's lives."
Sticka was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to three counts of menacing by stalking involving a total of three victims.
"These three individuals absolutely are the definition of innocent victims," Greene County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver told Sticka. "It's clear to me that your behavior is incredibly abhorrent."
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WHIO-TV anchor-reporter Gabrielle Enright, said she did not know Sticka when she became the second victim. She believes she was targeted "because I was friends with my coworker, and my coworker was being harassed and she (Sticka) went after me." Enright said Sticka attacked her appearance, job performance and marriage and "she used one of the worst moments of my life to harass me."
Enright suffered a miscarriage in 2016 and shared her pain with her social media followers. "I was trying to help myself and help others heal by going public with it," Enright said. In her victim impact statement, Enright said Sticka "claimed I killed my unborn child because I didn't know who the father was. She also tweeted that God hated me and that's why I lost my baby girl."
A mutual friend of both Enright, and the first victim, was also targeted by Sticka. Casey Bretti works as a project manager for a defense contractor that does business with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Bretti said Sticka tweeted "vile, disgusting things" about her, "that I had sex with my dog, that I was fat, ugly."
All three victims said Sticka's constant barrage of cruel posts and tweets left them physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Each obtained a civil protection order against Sticka, who was twice found in contempt of violating the first victim's CPO. He said that "only made her more resolute in her quest to destroy my life and those around me."
WHO IS JILLIAN STICKA?
Jillian Sticka is a 39 year old Xenia resident and a married mother of two children. Her Facebook profile said she is a certified notary public who studied business marketing at Clark State Community College.
HOW DID IT ALL START?
The former WHIO employee said he met Sticka in late 2011 at an event in Greene County. He said she began calling him several times a day and sent him Facebook messages. He told her that he was not interested in a relationship but, "the more I rejected Jillian, the angrier and more aggressive she became." He said he filed his first police report against Sticka in May of 2013. "Before that, I told her a million times to leave me alone." In September that year, he got a Civil Protection Order against her.
WHIO-TV anchor-reporter Gabrielle Enright said she did not realize she was being victimized when Sticka first targeted her with nasty tweets in 2014, "but the more I got into it, I realized I was being bullied." Enright said she never responded to Sticka, but she began to document countless posts and tweets, which ultimately became evidence in the criminal case.
The third victim, Casey Bretti, who works from home for a defense contractor, said Sticka's tweets toward her escalated in 2016 to the point that Bretti feared losing her job. She installed security cameras outside her house because she was afraid Sticka would show up there.
"I ended up with just enough emotional and mental bandwidth to deal with work and document these tweets which would sometimes happen all hours of the day and night," said Bretti. "She would tweet things and then delete it." Bretti said the constant monitoring and documentation, "was like having a part-time job."
Sticka was convicted in 2016 of menacing by stalking the first victim and served three months in the Greene County jail. She was then released on community control until March of 2017, after which the victims said her harassment of them resumed.
How did the victims seek justice?
Cyberstalking is defined as the use of electronic communications to persistently stalk or harass somebody. Under Ohio law, menacing by stalking is the name of the criminal charge against a person who stalks another through an electronic device. Prosecutors said such cases can be very difficult to prove because online harassment has to be traced to an Internet Protocol (IP) address and to the person using the device.
Jillian Sticka's three victims filed police reports, obtained civil protection orders, and documented her posts, which helped investigators build a case.
Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller said it took a team approach to investigate the case, which he described as "time intensive." He credits Xenia police detectives, Greene County and Xenia victim advocates, and Nicole Beckwith, a digital forensics examiner with the Ohio Auditor's Office. Beckwith is currently training law enforcement officers throughout the state about how to respond to and investigate cyber-crime. She underwent training through the U.S. Secret Service.
According to Kevin Dye, the Resident Agent in Charge of the Dayton office of the U.S. Secret Service, the agency "through our partnership with the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover, Alabama trains officers from state and local agencies nationwide providing them with resources, education, and tools necessary to investigate these cases."
What was the outcome of the trial?
Greene County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver listened to all three victims read impact statements in court before sentencing Sticka on the morning of June 26. He imposed a six-month jail term as punishment and ordered her to undergo mental health treatment "in an effort to find out why this behavior is something you feel you need to engage in."
Once Sticka gets out of jail, Judge Wolver told her that she will be on probation during which time she must continue receiving mental health treatment and have zero access to any form of electronic media.
"No accounts, no social accounts, no cell phones, no computers, nothing," Wolaver said.
How does social media play a role?
Their employment at WHIO required the first victim and Enright to engage on Facebook and Twitter with viewers. Both had thousands of followers. Enright is one of the more active WHIO news reporters on social media, with nearly 22,000 followers on Facebook and more than 16,000 followers on Twitter. Enright said she had received negative comments before.
"We're kind of used to that and you're able to blow things off," Enright said. However, when Sticka attacked her family, her friends, her marriage, and "a loss that I suffered, that's trauma for me."
James Haralson is the Social Product Manager at Cox Media Group Ohio (CMGO). He said Enright's experience "gave us a blueprint for how to escalate things with law enforcement" when company employees are harassed online. CMGO plans to hold a safety seminar for employees and instruct them on how to protect themselves on social media.
Haralson said when employees get a harassing or threatening comment, they will be encouraged to "screen shot it, document it, and block" the person who posted it. He said the digital department will notify building security, as well as law enforcement and the company's legal team. On air and newspaper personalities at media companies can be easy targets on social media, but other businesses can be victimized too.
"Social media is still an evolving area," Haralson said. "It's a continuing process of education."