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Associated Press, Published June 07 2013

Minn. woman’s online boyfriend turns out to be ex-husband

ST. PAUL – A Minnesota man has been charged with stalking for allegedly striking up an online relationship with his ex-wife using a fictitious persona with borrowed photographs.

Dakota County prosecutors say the West St. Paul woman had no idea the man who called himself Aaron Carpenter was actually her ex-husband, Brian Matthew Cornelius, 36, of Sturgeon Lake. Authorities say she “confided intimate details of her life and daily activities” after meeting “Carpenter” online.

The criminal complaint alleges Cornelius even persuaded his unknowing ex-wife to skip a court appearance on an order of protection she was seeking against him. Cornelius and the woman were married in 2000, but divorced in 2011. They have two children together and have sparred in court over custody issues.

He is charged with two counts of gross misdemeanor stalking, a charge that carries up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. His first court date is July 1.

West St. Paul police Investigator Shawna Curtis said the woman pieced the situation together after Cornelius started showing up in places she told Carpenter she would be. She said Carpenter also started saying things only Cornelius would know.

It’s not uncommon for men who are estranged to keep tabs on their former partners or try to make illicit contact online, she said.

“Sometimes if they’re that obsessive, that’s how they’re getting around to harassing or stalking or monitoring,” Curtis said.

The woman told police she felt “terrorized by Cornelius,” doesn’t feel safe in her own home and is “constantly fearful that he is watching her.”

Cornelius did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday. Court records do not list a defense attorney for him.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.