Suspect pleads not guilty to Internet stalking

Published 10:05 am Friday, January 25, 2013

An Austin woman, whom investigators suspect used a fictitious Facebook account to repeatedly send threatening and sadistic messages to a woman in New York, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Mower County Court.

Sheryl Denise Finley, 40, pleaded not guilty to felony stalking for electronic messages sent by false impersonation and gross misdemeanor stalking for repeated messages.

Investigators accused Finley of creating a Facebook account under the Alias “Rick Steenfield” to send messages about sexual assaults against a woman and child, along with references to murder and rape.

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The victim hired an Internet security firm to investigate Finley, which allegedly led local investigators to her login times at the Austin Public Library and Riverland Community College over several months in 2012. The court complaint adds Finley sent messages to the victim from her own Facebook account and threatening messages from the fake account from the same IP address, sometimes within minutes.

When told about this, Finley admitted she sent the messages, according to the complaint. The investigator told Finley she could not send any more messages to the victim. One hour after the interview, however, Finley reportedly logged into her account and sent another message to the victim.

Her pretrial is May 3.