Sext Fiend: Jovica Petrovic tried to embarrass his ex-wife to death, and revenge porn was the name of the game

Sext Fiend: Jovica Petrovic tried to embarrass his ex-wife to death, and revenge porn was the name of the game
Illustration by Marcus Howell

Jovica Petrovic first agreed to meet with Riverfront Times in March 2012, when he was already locked up at the St. Charles County jail for trying to destroy his ex-wife online.

"You know why I want to talk to you?" he asked, seated in a bare visitation cell lit by fluorescent bulbs. "I want you to win the Pulitzer Prize."

The 61-year-old Petrovic looked sunken and pale in orange prison scrubs, yet his dark eyes smoldered.

"All the case against me is fabricated," he insisted. "It's a crooked system. I need an attorney who can take the case. We can smash everything."

With a heavy accent, Petrovic sketched out his story: He'd been born in Croatia but had spent most of his life in Germany. He said he had earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Hamburg then emigrated to Florida in 2001 to work in real estate and software development.

One day in 2006 he crossed paths with a woman from St. Louis who was vacationing in Bonita Springs. Her name was Megan. They began a torrid affair and eventually got married in 2009.

"You cannot describe this relationship in 100 sentences," he said. "We got very, very close. It was crazy, like I was in another world."

But the relationship soon soured. When Megan left him six months after they tied the knot, Petrovic snapped, launching an online campaign against her that was so meticulous and cruel it drew the attention of federal prosecutors. In 2011 a jury convicted Petrovic of stalking and extortion.

"The justice system can have my body," he told RFT, "but it can never have my mind."

Petrovic came to this jailhouse interview carrying several documents. He had a chart, drawn by hand, to quantify his life in detention. In one column he recorded the number of days he'd served. In another, he tallied up the mileage he had covered pacing back and forth in his cell: a total of 4,167 miles in 2011, the grid showed — "a minimum of ten a day," he said.

And yet another column counted the number of days since Megan had left him.

He had also brought photos of them as a couple, taken at restaurants. In those shots, he looked prosperous and pleased. Now he was 60 pounds lighter with shaggy whiskers. The grin in the photos had vanished.

"I'm here seventeen months and twenty days," he said, "and my brain works only in one direction: Why am I here? What crime have I committed?"

Part of what Jovica Petrovic did to his ex-wife could properly be called "revenge porn" — graphic photos taken consensually during a relationship that get posted online later to humiliate a former lover. Websites such as Is Anybody Down? and Pink Meth now exist mainly as a platform for revenge porn (although some of the content is generated by peeping Toms and hackers, leading analysts to prefer the catchall term "involuntary porn").

John Sauer, the former assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Petrovic for the government, had other names for the defendant's behavior. In pleadings and during trial, Sauer claimed Petrovic was motivated by "pure malice" and a "a relentless desire to mentally torture his victim." He called the online campaign "vile," "appalling," "disgusting" and "uniquely repulsive."

Jovica Petrovic, the prosecutor told the jury at one point, possessed "an evil mind."

One afternoon last January, Megan arrived at the Ritz-Carlton lobby lounge in Clayton to recount her nightmare. At 37, she cut a striking figure in a long sweater, black tights and high leather boots. Her hope, she said, was that her story would serve as a cautionary tale for others — especially teens — who share intimate photos and thoughts via cell phones and the Internet.

"I was really spoiled growing up," began Megan, her arms crossed tightly. She remembered having everything as a kid in Chesterfield — even horses. Her father was a real estate developer, while her mom stayed at home. But once her parents split, she said, her mother had to find a way to support five kids by herself. That insecurity left an imprint on her. She was further destabilized by bipolar disorder, a diagnosis she received when she was eighteen.

Megan drifted after graduating from high school, attending aesthetician school, bartending, even dabbling in exotic dancing. At age 23 she married a real estate developer named Ben.* They had two kids and moved into a "gorgeous" house in Lake St. Louis.

Yet as a stay-at-home mom, she said, she grew bored and anxious. Worse still, she realized that she'd become her mother and lived under the constant fear of abandonment.

"I was so afraid that what happened to my mom was going to happen to me that I was always feeling I needed a backup," she said. "That's why I did some of the things I did. That's what led me to Joshua."

Megan was 31 and separated from Ben when she and a girlfriend flew to Bonita Springs for a beach vacation. As they sat at an outdoor bar one day, a gentleman with a thick German accent sidled up and bought them drinks. It was Jovica "Joshua" Petrovic.

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