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Jurors hear about Facebook messages, hidden cameras in sex abuse trial of Forest Grove man

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - STEVEN DOUGLAS ROCKETTState’s exhibit number three took the forefront of testimony in the case against Steven Douglas Rockett Friday in the Hillsboro courtroom of Judge Andrew W. Erwin.

Rockett, 46, a Forest Grove resident, faces 15 counts related to the sexual abuse of four children. Charges include second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sex abuse and using a child in a display of sexual conduct.

The alleged abuse dates back to 2009. A police investigation into Rockett's activities began in 2013.

The inclusion of that evidence -- transcripts of Facebook messages between Naomi Schneider, now 18, and Rockett -- was strongly challenged by the defense. In that messaging, Naomi, then 12 years old, discussed the replacement of an iPhone Rockett had provided for her, but had been stolen. At one point, Rockett insists that she “work off” the new phone, asking her to take pictures of herself when she goes to take a shower.

In a video shown to jurors of police interviews with Rockett, an off-camera detective says, “[In the video] You talk specifically how you want her to take pictures of herself in the shower: ‘Use the one in the bathroom hold the camera high up to get the full pictures.’”

“I don’t think I’d seen them in person since I gave her the phone,” replies Rockett, referring to Naomi and her older and younger sisters. He explains he wanted to see “how much she’s grown and changed.”

“Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?” the off-camera officer presses. “She’s in the bathroom with no clothes on.”

In the Facebook messages, Rockett explains that to earn back the phone the girl will have to spend the night and come over to work. Naomi responds, “I’ll just go without [a phone]. I don’t want to do that stuff again. I have nightmares and I cry myself to sleep a lot.”

In the video of the interview, Rockett attempts to explain that Joseph and Cheryl Schneider, former family friends whose children came to live with Rockett six years ago in Aloha, were spendthrifts who gambled away their money. Joseph Schneider, he says, jumped from job to job, got caught in the economic downturn and was unable to find a new position in 2009. Rockett told the court that Joseph made $250,000 per year when he was in the tech industry, but “him and his wife burned right through it.” The family was known for trying to con people, he said, adding there was a warrant out for Cheryl Schneider in Sacramento, Calif.

Washington County Sheriff’s Det. Robert Rookhuyzen testified that he investigated the claims but found no warrants or criminal history in connection with Cheryl Schneider.

Former Washington County sheriff’s detective Erika Cox told jurors that in interviews, Naomi told her she had performed oral sex on Rockett.

Speaking at times through an interpreter, 35-year-old Christine (Rockett) Jumaoas, the defendant's ex-wife, said she met Rockett in the Philippines and that they were married in South Lake Tahoe. Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney hammered Jumaoas with questions about cameras in the home. At first, she insisted that the only camera she knew about was her personal camera. Then she admitted her husband sent cameras overseas.

When questioned about the Schneider children, Jumao-as told the jury, “I don’t interact with those girls because I don’t like them.”

“You didn’t like the girls?”

“No.”

“What would they do?”

“Whine. I couldn’t handle it. I just let them whine to Steven and they would say things and I don’t know what to believe. I don’t know. All I know is they whine … Naomi would say something that was not even true.” She also characterized the whining: “They would say, 'Steven I want this, I want that. Can you buy this, can you buy that?'”

Jumao-as identified a picture taken by a pinhole camera that was seized under search warrant as being a photo of one of her sons. She acknowledged she had spoken to police regarding the safety of her sons, but denied she believed any sexual abuse had occurred. Under cross-examination she said she was not concerned that Rocket had abused either of her children.

“No. He’s a good father,” Jumaoas said.

Rockett sat stoic during the hearing, unfolding his arms only to put his shaking hand to his mouth and chin when Judge Erwin reversed a pre-trial decision not to allow mention of the hidden camera in the family's hall bathroom. The decision allowed Maloney to inform the jury that Rockett had pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to charges that the camera had been placed in the bathroom for the specific purpose of recording sexual images of a child.

The trial will continue next week.

Thursday, Feb. 26

Prosecutors continued to question witnesses Thursday in the sex-abuse trial of Steven Douglas Rockett in Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro.

On Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Dustin Staten told jurors an investigation into Rockett's activities began in August 2013, after a 14-year-old girl reported to her mother their longtime family friend had abused her for years.

Defense attorney Richard Cohen presented a narrative in court that in 2009, the Schneider family was reeling from job loss, bouncing between Folsom, Calif., Texas and Oregon. Cheryl Ann and Joseph Schneider realized they needed help, and reached out to a past co-worker of Joseph’s who was then living in Aloha.

Steven Rockett and Joseph Schneider had been employed at Level One Communications in Sacramento, Calif., as designers in the high-tech industry.

Rockett drove to Folsom and picked up two of the Schneider girls, taking them to his home for Christmas break. Some time later, Cheryl and Joseph asked Rockett to provide a home for Natalie, Naomi and Nicole, then ages 10, 12 and 14. He agreed and the parties drew up a limited power of attorney.

During the period the girls lived with Rockett in Aloha, they saw their mother and father, who were living in Hillsboro, only two times in person. “I didn’t have a car,” explained Cheryl.

In daily phone calls, the girls complained to their mother that they didn’t like living in the Rockett household. In particular, they disliked the chores and school requirements. But there was more.

"Do you have a memory of the first time Mr. Rockett touched you inappropriately?” Cohen asked Natalie Schneider, now 20, Thursday afternoon.

“I have not had a clear memory of the first time or a few times afterward, but I do have just the one specific memory,” she replied.

Natalie told the jury about being weighed in her bra and panties, and a photo being taken of a mole. She remembered Rockett "taking pictures of me and attempting to have sex with me in the bathroom in his house in Aloha … he turned on the shower to block the noise.”

During calls home, however, she never mentioned the situation. While she remembers few specifics of being molested, Natalie told Cohen, she did recall being at work at The Limited store in the Washington Square Mall when a call came in from her mother, who asked if Rockett had ever touched her.

Natalie answered yes.

"Have you and your sister talked about this?” Cohen asked in court. Natalie replied no, that "we thought it was isolated events. I thought I was the only one, Nicole thought that she was the only one, Naomi thought she was the only one.

”If I was the only one, I didn’t have to really tell anyone. It didn’t matter what happened to me.”

Cohen asked Natalie if her mother had made Rockett into the “bogeyman," using him as a threat: “If you aren’t good we’ll send you back to live with him.”

“Yes,” she responded.

The accusations came to light in 2013, when the family was living in a Motel 6 with only two beds. The middle child, Naomi, had become obstinate and argumentative. Her mother was frustrated and unable to gain control of the teenager, she said, and told her “How about I just call Steve and see if you can live with [him] again?”

Naomi's response floored Cheryl. “No, I hate him. If you send me there, I will run away.”

What could be so bad? asked Cheryl.

“He [expletive] raped me!” was the reply.

Daughter Nicole then began to cry and said she had been touched by Rockett as well.

At that point, Cheryl asked for proof and was shown Facebook posts where Rockett had offered to replace an iPhone he had purchased for Naomi, but only if she “worked it off.” Naomi responded in the messages that she didn’t want to do that because she still had nightmares about the incidents.

How had these conversations happened using Cheryl’s phone without her knowledge? Cohen asked.

“I don’t invade [the children’s] privacy,” Cheryl Schneider said.

Cohen also asked whether Cheryl might have been upset with Rockett because he contacted the Department of Human Services when she refused to take her children back. The situation led to the Schneiders being investigated for not providing proper care of their children.

The mother also agreed that the children were witnesses to the adults drinking too much and instances of domestic violence.

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