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Stafford man waives hearing on child-sex charges


Eight felony charges against a Stafford man accused of showing up at a county motel to have sex with a 5-year-old girl were sent to a grand jury Thursday.

Michael Thomas Dowling

Michael Thomas Dowling, 35, was arrested Dec. 13 after walking into a sting operation set up by Stafford Detective Darryl Wells and others.

After the Sheriff’s Office received information that Dowling was interested in sex with children, Wells set a trap that included a county detective pretending to be an interested mother with a 5-year-old daughter. Arrangements were made over the phone and by computer for Dowling to have relations with both the fictitious mother and daughter at a North Stafford motel.

After Dowling knocked on the motel door, court records show, he was arrested by waiting officers. He has been held in the Rappahannock Regional Jail without bond ever since.

A preliminary hearing was set for Thursday in Stafford Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, but Dowling waived the hearing after consulting with his attorney, Mark Gardner. Judge Julian Johnson then sent the charges to circuit court.

According to prosecutor Ed Lustig and court records, Dowling and a county woman met at a day care last year and eventually began having relations. At some point, according to the evidence, he let the woman know he was interested in  having them perform sex acts with and in front of his young sons and her then 3-year-old daughter.

The woman went to the Sheriff’s Office and the case was referred to Wells. Under Wells’ direction, the woman later told Dowling about a “friend” she had named “Mandy” who had a 5-year-old daughter named “Abigail.”

Police set up an email account so Dowling could chat with the fake woman online.

Detective Michelle Gibbons played “Mandy” in a subsequent phone call and arranged to meet Dowling at the

motel, where the surprised suspect was taken into custody without incident.

Dowling, a former Marine Corps captain who worked at the Pentagon, is charged with two counts of soliciting indecent liberties with a child, two counts of soliciting sodomy, soliciting to produce child pornography, attempting to produce child pornography, attempted indecent liberties and using a computer to solicit sex with a minor.

Lustig said he expects more charges by the time the case reaches the March 4 grand jury.

Keith Epps:  540/374-5404