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updated: 3/2/2012 10:43 PM

$750,000 bail for Wheaton professor in porn case

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  • Donald Ratcliff

      Donald Ratcliff

 
 

The Wheaton College professor charged with two counts of aggravated child pornography also faces charges for possession of two handguns and ammunition without a firearm owners identification card, prosecutors said Friday in DuPage County court.

Donald Ratcliff, 60, of Falcon Trail in Carol Stream, was ordered by Judge Elizabeth Sexton to surrender the weapons and ammunition to police and told not to have contact with anyone younger than 18 or use a computer or the Internet until a bond hearing scheduled for Thursday, March 8.

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In the meantime, his bail was set at $750,000. Sexton told Ratcliff he would have to post $75,030 to get out of jail until the hearing, but Ratcliff said "I don't think I can."

Assistant State's Attorney Anne Therieau said investigators found two guns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Ratcliff's home.

Dan Collins, the attorney representing Ratcliff, said the guns are "family heirlooms," but wouldn't comment further.

Investigators also found pornographic images of children younger than 13 on six or seven computers as a result of a months-long effort, Therieau said. She said she couldn't comment on the number of images or whether Ratcliff had produced any of the images because the investigation is ongoing.

Several Wheaton College students Friday said the allegations came as a surprise and they called the charges "sobering" and "saddening."

Ratcliff has been a professor of Christian education at Wheaton College since 2006 and has focused his academic research on children.

On his personal website viewed Thursday before its content was taken down, Ratcliff wrote on the subject of children and spirituality: "I appreciate children in all of their richness and complexity. They can be baffling, frustrating, delightful, and overwhelming. While I have studied child development in depth ... I am particularly interested in the spirituality of children."

Christian education major Megan Romberger said she had not taken Ratcliff's human development class, but she hasn't heard anything negative about it.

"It's really saddening to me," Romberger said about the child pornography charges Ratcliff is facing. "It's an unfortunate reflection on the college that this happened, especially in the Christian education department where we're supposed to be ministering to others."

On Ratcliff's biography page on the college's website, it says he is on administrative leave. Before much of the content of the biography was taken down, it said he is a videographer and ham radio enthusiast who is married with three children. He also is a "lay leader" at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wheaton.

Students said they received an email from the college Thursday evening about Ratcliff. A spokeswoman Friday said the college had no further comment other than a short statement posted online Thursday saying the school was aware of Ratcliff's arrest and charges.

"I think it's sobering," said junior chemistry major Alex Recker. "Everyone regrets it."

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