Child rapist stalked many, left mysteries, FBI says

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 2:24 PM
Last updated 7:08 PM
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POOLER, Ga. -- Matthew Coniglio’s Georgia home held a trove of child pornography, more than 50,000 images and videos stored on laptops, external hard drives and thumb drives.

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This undated photo released by the Chatham County Sheriff's Department shows Matthew Coniglio's personal effects, including one of several notes he wrote before allegedly committing suicide, on April 20, 2014, at the Chatham County jail. Coniglio, a 46-year-old traveling salesman, was accused of molesting and raping unconscious girls.   AP/ Via Chatham County police
AP/ Via Chatham County police
This undated photo released by the Chatham County Sheriff's Department shows Matthew Coniglio's personal effects, including one of several notes he wrote before allegedly committing suicide, on April 20, 2014, at the Chatham County jail. Coniglio, a 46-year-old traveling salesman, was accused of molesting and raping unconscious girls.


Among the stash, hidden in a bedside table turned around to conceal the doors, authorities made an even more horrifying discovery: 56 8-millimeter cassette tapes they say show him raping and molesting girls.

All were unconscious, apparently drugged, FBI Special Agent William Kirkconnell, who viewed the tapes, told The Associated Press. Some were so incapacitated they were snoring. The camera was always turned off before they awoke.

Many of the victims’ faces cannot be clearly identified, so investigators don’t know how many different girls were attacked. But each tape recorded at least one assault — some had more — in homes and hotels. The youngest victim appears to be about 10 years old.

As for the alleged perpetrator, a 46-year-old traveling salesman who worked and lived in cities across Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, “he often looks back at the camera and even speaks,” Kirkconnell said. “There’s no doubt it’s Matthew Coniglio. None at all.”

Who were these girls, and do they know what happened to them? Could there be other victims?

The FBI shared exclusive details of the case with AP in the hope that victims will step forward and can be offered help and counseling. The AP also uncovered other exclusive details of Coniglio’s past and his previous encounters with the law.

Authorities’ best chance for resolving the raft of unanswered questions vanished on April 20. Ten days after his arrest, Coniglio wrote goodbye letters to his parents, tied a cord to a vent above a sink in his jail cell and hanged himself in an apparent suicide.

Nearly a decade before his arrest, Coniglio sat in a South Carolina deputy sheriff’s office and was asked point-blank if he was a pedophile.

"He said that he was not,” Deputy Angela Olds wrote in her 2005 investigation into an incident involving Coniglio, according to records obtained by the AP.

At the time, Coniglio worked selling food products in Hilton Head, and at one diner he told an employee that he and a partner had started a modeling agency. He asked to take pictures of the woman’s 11-year-old daughter at a mall. The girls’ parents agreed. The AP is withholding the family’s name because it does not generally identify possible victims of sexual abuse.

The girl and her father met Coniglio in the diner parking lot, the father told deputies. After the father agreed to meet them at the mall, the girl left in Coniglio’s car. Records show Coniglio took her to a hotel room rigged with video cameras and offered her a soda. He asked her to flop down on a bed.

The girl, when questioned by authorities, never said she was assaulted but said she felt uncomfortable at the hotel and demanded that Coniglio take her home. At some point he did. She also said she thought she was at the hotel for no more than an hour, while her parents said she was missing for several hours.

In the deputy’s report, the mother said that her daughter came home very upset and locked herself in her bedroom closet, prompting the mother to call authorities.

During a voluntary interview with deputies, Coniglio said the girl was the first he tried to photograph for his fledgling business. He denied taking any pictures, and said he had apologized to the girl’s mother “because he knows that it looks bad,” Olds wrote. He denied he was aroused by children, Olds wrote in her report. Now a master sergeant at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Olds, who now uses the last name Viens, declined an interview.

Coniglio was never charged.

He grew up in a suburban home in Kingwood, Texas, with his mom, dad and sister, Coniglio’s mother, Betty Coniglio, told the AP. He wanted to be a writer, penning poetry and plays. But after college, Coniglio followed his father into the food distribution industry.

Betty Coniglio described her son as outgoing, and she remembered friends calling him at all hours for advice or solace. She added that she does not believe her son was guilty.

“I guess if this was true he was leading a double life,” she said.

There were problems, however. After his arrest this year, Coniglio told a jailhouse nurse that he drank heavily — up to 13 beers and cocktails daily, records show. And he had at least two prior arrests related to alcohol, most recently for driving drunk in 2000.

The videos suggest the attacks on the girls started around the time of the 2000 arrest or earlier, investigators said. It wasn’t until March, however, that a police officer in Pooler, Georgia, where Coniglio lived, identified him as a suspect in an online child pornography case. Investigators got a search warrant, and found the tapes.

Charged with possessing child pornography, Coniglio hadn’t entered a plea before he died. Kirkconnell said authorities planned to bring federal charges but never got the chance.

Coniglio’s lawyer, Tom Edenfield, declined to comment.

Former FBI Assistant Director Ronald Hosko said it is not uncommon for molesters to have multiple victims. They are skilled at developing trust, and adept at appearing otherwise law-abiding and safe.

“To think you know by looking at somebody — chances are you’re way off the mark,” Hosko said.

In March, a former teacher at international schools on four continents, William Vahey, killed himself after he was accused of molesting potentially 90 or more boys. He allegedly drugged them with Oreos laced with sleeping pills.

Coniglio’s death could make it impossible for authorities to find his victims and learn the scale of his alleged crimes.

Investigators believe he killed himself while alone at the Chatham County jail in Savannah, Georgia, and that he may have plotted the attempt for days. His cellmate told investigators Coniglio had asked for an hour of privacy in their cell in the evenings, right after guards usually finished a round of checks. A jail guard resigned after he was accused of failing to perform required cell checks around the time Coniglio died.

As part of its effort to find victims, the FBI created a confidential online questionnaire that victims or others with information can fill out to be contacted by investigators.

So far, only a single victim has been identified.

Her mother, a friend of Coniglio’s when he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, allowed the girl to spend unsupervised time with him. The mother saw a news report about Coniglio and brought her daughter to investigators along with old photos of her.

“She recalls that he would always give her ice cream and give her hot chocolate, and she recalled that ... those items at times tasted very bitter to her,” said Kirkconnell, who believes Coniglio drugged the treats to knock her out.

In letters he wrote to his parents before his death and obtained by the AP under open records laws, Coniglio did not explicitly discuss the case, but he said “a lot” of the allegations leveled against him were untrue and exaggerated. He also acknowledged he had “let sin pull me where it wanted.”

He called himself a “troubled soul” who had wrestled with alcoholism and depression for years. And he apologized for the pain he caused his family.

“The decision I’m making tonight is the most difficult one I’ve ever had to make,” he wrote. But it would be, he said, “the best way out for all.”

DEATH INVESTIGATION

Several errors may have contributed to the apparent jailhouse suicide of suspected serial child rapist Matthew Coniglio, eliminating the best chance that investigators had for identifying victims across the Southeast.

Police arrested the 46-year-old Coniglio on April 10 in Pooler, Georgia. Ten days later, he apparently hanged himself with a cord inside his cell at the Chatham County jail in Savannah, Georgia.

Here are key findings from an internal investigation into the death obtained by The Associated Press.

MEDICAL CARE: A staffer for the medical contractor at the jail, Corizon, prescribed Valium to help Coniglio cope with panic attacks and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, according to a report by Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Allen O’Berry. He determined Coniglio never received the sedative. Medical staffers also didn’t do follow-up evaluations withConiglio. O’Berry described the lapses as “poor practices” in his report. Corizon spokeswoman Rebecca Warren wouldn’t comment on Coniglio’s care, citing patient confidentiality rules.

SUPERVISION: Investigators believe Coniglio killed himself while alone, and he may have plotted the attempt for several days. His cellmate, Donald Graham, told investigators Coniglio had asked about a week earlier for an hour of privacy in their cell in the evening, right after prison guards usually finished a round of checks. O’Berry wrote in his report that video from the jail shows a guard did not make those cell checks on Easter night, when Conigliodied, then falsely claimed he did in official paperwork. That guard, Ashton Tatum, resigned May 7 rather than get fired, records show. Tatum told the AP that he was not properly trained.

IS THE DEATH INVESTIGATION FINISHED? No, not yet. O’Berry found no signs of foul play and concluded thatConiglio killed himself. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has not yet completed its inquiry.

Comments (7) Add comment
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corgimom
43102
Points
corgimom 07/02/14 - 01:35 pm
8
1
The girls were drugged, most

The girls were drugged, most don't even know that they were raped.

The only decent thing this so-called person did was to kill himself.

"She (his mother) added that she does not believe her son was guilty."

Holy crud, how can anybody believe that, does she think that the videos were Photoshopped or something?

How could anybody allow their precious baby to go off with somebody that they MEET IN A DINER!!!

Those babies were lucky they weren't killed.

jimmymac
56092
Points
jimmymac 07/02/14 - 02:53 pm
1
0
CORGI
Unpublished

The fact his mother didn't think he was guilty probably explains how he became the monster that he was. An enabling mother didn't want to believe her spawn came from the devil.

Farmboy
1043
Points
Farmboy 07/02/14 - 05:03 pm
4
0
Suicide?

To escape justice? I don't have all the answers, but I have a gut feeling it's not that easy. In fact, he could have made his situation even worse.

cparker
89
Points
cparker 07/02/14 - 06:24 pm
0
3
Immoral people are everywhere...

Immorality has no race, no gender, and no address!! I have taken notice that all the Section 8, welfare bashers have no comments today. Where is all the he saved the tax payers money talk today? Just when we judge others, we soon find someone that looks a lot like yourself proving immorality exists everywhere.

geecheeriverman
7748
Points
geecheeriverman 07/03/14 - 04:12 am
3
0
cparker

You are right! He surely saved the Federal and State Government a lot of money. It would probably cost on the plus side of 1 million dollars to house him and give him free legal aide. There is no Liberal or Conservative component in this that I see.

curly123053
5925
Points
curly123053 07/03/14 - 05:50 am
3
0
It's Hazardous To Be To Naive

I agree with Corgi....What were these so-called parents doing sending their kids off with a stranger for modeling pictures unattended? If I could go along then my kid wouldn't be going either......People are way to naive sometimes when it comes to their kids....or....were these parents thinking of "becoming rich" because their daughter was going off with someone for modeling pics? This happens more than it should.

gargoyle
22877
Points
gargoyle 07/03/14 - 01:07 pm
1
0
I can't even imagine send a

I can't even imagine send a child unescorted. A whole lot of questions need answered about how he acquired victims.

corgimom
43102
Points
corgimom 07/03/14 - 06:20 pm
1
0
This goes way beyond

This goes way beyond immorality and is just stone-cold EVIL.

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