A Los Altos man was arrested Monday after he was police linked him to a chain of explicit, sexually violent and threatening messages sent to a Mountain View woman.
The suspect, identified as 29-year-old Matthew Cringle, attended a local high school with the victim, and reportedly had a history of harassing her, according to a statement from the Mountain View Police Department. The woman told officers during her initial report to police on April 23 that she believed it was Cringle sending the messages.
Investigators in Mountain View's Cyber Crimes unit eventually linked Cringle to the series of messages sent to the victim and arrested him without incident on Monday, Nov. 19.
In the initial April report, the suspect had sent explicit messages to the victim's Facebook account inbox, according to police, and that the accounts used to send the messages appeared to be fake. Police say the repeated messages to the victim and her friends and family went on for over a decade. Cringle allegedly took the bold step more recently of using his personal email to communicate with the victim and ask about her whereabouts.
"This is the first holiday season in over a decade where the victim can relax and not worry about looking over her shoulder," Mountain View police Sgt. Tim Dahl said in the statement. "She shouldn't have to live in fear."
Police said the accounts Cringle allegedly used to harass the victim were created when Facebook allowed a greater level of anonymity, so the department had to use a series of search warrants to figure out the identity of the suspect. While the investigation began in April, Cringle had allegedly been in and out of contact with her through fake accounts since he and the victim were in high school, according to police spokeswoman Katie Nelson.
"There was a lot of messages that were coming from many different 'people,' but they were all very similar," Nelson said. "This poor woman was receiving it repeatedly over the course of about 12 years."
The victim told police she believes Cringle began stalking her after an incident in the one high school class they shared -- he coughed in class, and she asked him to cover his mouth, according to the statement.
Cringle was arrested on suspicion of felony stalking, stalking under a prohibited restraining order, stalking following a prior felony conviction and making criminal threats. He was booked into Santa Clara County jail and is being held without bail. Cringle had previously been convicted of stalking against the same victim several years ago, Nelson said, and it's unclear how or why the stalking was allowed to continue after the conviction.
Police believe there may have been additional victims, and that the fixation behavior exhibited by Cringle could have extended to other people, Nelson said. Cringle also worked for a ride-sharing company, potentially putting him in contact with people who could have triggered a similar fixation, Nelson said.
Anyone who may have been contacted by the suspect is encouraged to contact Sgt. Dahl at [email protected] and refer to case number 18-02540.