Investigator gives insight on Marvin Gethers case at CCSD

Investigator gives insight on Marvin Gethers case at CCSD

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Our Live 5 Investigation continues into how Charleston County School District handled the Marvin Gethers case.

CCSD discovered child pornography on Gethers' school laptop four years ago, yet failed to fire him while police investigated.

It took nearly two years for police to get back the forensic exam on Gethers' computer.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s officer who handled that analysis says the backlog is significantly improved today.

Master Deputy Paul McManigal is a computer forensics examiner at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

He handles phones, tablets, computers, and even data from cars.

McManigal was recently named to the US Secret Service Task Force for Electronic Crimes and works cases from all over our region.

"I've been exposed to some pretty sick and twisted things, especially on the internet. However, when you actually dive into and see what's really out there, it's pretty surprising even for someone who's been in law enforcement for 30 years like I have," McManigal said.

In 2014, North Charleston Police investigators sent McManigal a Dell laptop to examine.

It was the school computer issued to Dunston Elementary employee Marvin Gethers. CCSD IT workers discovered possible child pornography on the laptop the month before.

After about 22 months, the computer forensic report was completed and handed over to NCPD.

"I was the full time supervisor of the crime lab at the time. And computer forensics were given to me as a collateral duty," McManigal said.

He was, and still is, one of a handful of experts in the state, and the role wasn't full time back then.

"Then in 2015, I switched roles and became a full time computer forensics examiner. So initially my backlog was about a year and a half, and now I've gotten it down to just under six months."

He says the federal government is pushing to train more experts and buy the best equipment since nearly every case involves electronics these days.

While McManigal couldn’t discuss specifically what he found in the Gethers case, his report showed more than 12,000 pornographic websites visited and 42 images involving minors.

It was that report that led to Gethers' arrest and termination in 2016.

Gethers wrote a letter to the district apologizing for accessing the porn, but denied purposefully accessing material involving children.

His family and attorneys maintain his innocence; Gethers died in 2017.

One of McManigal's current cases involves ten computers.

"I found over 400,000 child porn images on those computers. I had to go through each and every one of them. It takes a while. It takes a long time. They had a lot of video, too. A lot of homemade video," he added.

That case is awaiting trial.

Sometimes electronic evidence he finds is the only evidence in the case. Some suspects, he said, are better at hiding their electronic trail. But with enough diligence, McManigal said he and his fellow experts can usually track down the evidence.

“Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life, but in the end, I get to persecute the guilty and exonerate the innocent, so it’s a pretty big reward.”

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