ELKTON — A convicted sex offender who allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl alongside a country road near Elkton last month, after befriending her on social media, is facing new charges that relate to him purportedly arranging for someone to bribe and threaten the victim to retract her allegations, according to Cecil County District Court records.
The investigation leading to the new charges against the rape suspect — Shane Thomas Gustafson, 24, of the 200 block of Plum Point Road, southwest of Elkton — and to charges against his alleged accomplice in the victim intimidation case — Nola Rae Ratledge, 18, of the unit block of Plum Creek Road near North East — involved the monitoring of Gustafson’s phone calls at the Cecil County Detention Center, court records show.
Gustafson has been a pre-trial inmate on no bond at that county jail since his Aug. 24 arrest in the rape case.
Now, in addition to first-degree rape, second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, perverted practice and second-degree assault, Gustafson is facing five charges relating to victim intimidation case that Cecil County Sheriff’s Office investigators filed against him on Thursday, court records show.
In the newer of his two criminal cases, Gustafson is charged with threatening harm to induce or influence a victim to falsely testify or to withhold testimony and with solicitation of a person to threaten harm to induce or influence a victim to falsely testify or to withhold testimony, court records show. Each of those felony charges is punishable by up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to court records.
Gustafson also is charged with two related offenses, both of which carry maximum 10-year sentences if convicted, and one count of obstruction of justice, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, court records show.
Ratledge is facing four criminal charges, including obstruction of justice and the two felonies that are punishable by up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to court records. Free on personal recognizance after her arrest on Thursday, Ratledge is scheduled for a Sept. 29 preliminary hearing, court records show.
Charging documents reference an Aug. 25 phone call, which was monitored at the jail, and the alleged conspiracy that occurred during the conversation between Gustafson and Ratledge. Court records do not specify the relationship that Gustafson has with Ratledge.
“At one point, Gustafson tells Ratledge to advise the juvenile (rape) victim that he will give her ‘one thousand dollars’ to drop the charges and that he would hand over his vehicle to Ratledge,” court records allege.
Similar phone conversations between Gustafson and Ratledge were monitored at the jail after that one, police reported.
“Gustafson conspires with Ratledge to get another party and her ‘whole family’ involved to threaten the victim if she did not drop the charges. Initially, Ratledge is hesitant to cooperate, even after Gustafson pleads with her during multiple calls to reach out to the victim,” court records allege.
Charging documents also summarize a monitored phone conversation between Gustafson and Ratledge on Aug. 31.
“A phone call between Gustafson and Ratledge confirms that Ratledge reached out to the victim via text,” court records allege.
In another monitored phone call, Ratledge “admits to contacting the victim’s sister,” according to charging documents.
Gustafson, who remains in the county jail on no bond in the victim intimidation case, too, is scheduled for an Oct. 1 preliminary hearing relating to that criminal matter, court records show.
After his Aug. 24 arrest in the rape case, Gustafson made a confession to CCSO investigators during a police interview in the wake of waiving his Miranda right to remain silent, according to charging documents.
“Mr. Gustafson admitted to having sexual intercourse with (the girl). He admitted knowing that (the girl) was 12 years old, and he later apologized to (the girl) for the assault,” according to charging documents.
CCSO Det. Chase Armington interviewed the girl on Aug. 19, after the girl had come forward and he had, in turn, received a referral from the Cecil County Department of Social Services regarding the “sexual abuse of minor,” police reported.
The girl told the investigator that she met a man named “Shane” on Aug. 2 on SnapChat, a social media platform, and started communicating with him, police said. During the social media conversation, that man named Shane — later identified by investigators as Gustafson — allegedly sent the girl photographs of his penis and asked her to send him nude pictures of her, police added.
After the girl confided in Gustafson that she was “having a bad day and needed a friend,” they made plans to meet to discuss her day, police reported.
At approximately 11 p.m. on Aug. 2, Gustafson drove an older model, white Ford pickup truck with an extended cab to the girl’s home and parked across the street from her residence, according to charging documents. The girl walked out of her house and got into the truck, which Gustafson then drove to Dixie Line Road near Elkton, a short distance from the Delaware state line, court records allege.
After pulling off that road, Gustafson allegedly started touching the girl’s body inside the truck while “saying sexual things to her,” police said. The girl told investigators that she told Gustafson “no” several times, police added.
Gustafson then pushed the girl onto her back, removed her shorts and underwear, and raped her, according to charging documents, which further allege that he slapped and choked the girl during the assault. The suspect also forced the girl to perform fellatio on him, court records allege.
After the alleged sexual assault, which, according to the girl, lasted approximately 45 minutes, Gustafson purportedly drove to the Royal Farms store in the 1100 block of East Pulaski Highway near Elkton to purchase a drink — before driving the girl to her home and dropping her off, police reported.
During his investigation, Armington watched video gleaned from a surveillance camera at that Royal Farms — and it shows a Ford pickup truck pull into the parking lot near the fuel pumps at 12:13 a.m. on Aug. 3, about 75 minutes after Gustafson allegedly had picked up the girl at her home, court records allege.
“The time, description of the truck and the description of ‘Shane’ matched the information (the girl) provided,” Armington notes in his written statement of probable cause.
The investigator learned that Gustafson was convicted of corruption of a minor in 2019 in Pennsylvania, court records show.
“It appears that Mr. Gustafson was convicted and placed on probation on Aug. 3, 2020, and is currently on probation. The conviction requires Gustafson to register as a convicted sex offender in the State of Maryland,” according to court records.
Investigators arrested Gustafson on Aug. 24 at the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, police said. Armington approached Gustafson, who was there to “satisfy his (sex offender) registry requirements” relating to his Pennsylvania corruption-of-a-minor conviction, police added.
Gustafson is scheduled for a Sept. 24 preliminary hearing in the rape case against him, court records show.