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updated: 3/28/2012 4:34 PM

Wheaton College professor indicted on child porn charges

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  • Donald Ratcliff

      Donald Ratcliff

 

A former Wheaton College professor charged with child pornography has been indicted, and his wife wants a divorce.

Donald Ratcliff, 60, was indicted on seven counts of aggravated child pornography Tuesday, less than two weeks after his wife of 33 years filed to end their marriage.

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Ratcliff has been in the DuPage County jail since March 1 and was fired from his job as a professor of Christian education earlier this month, according to Wheaton College.

Prosecutors say he possessed at least 500 images of child pornography on computer equipment seized from his home by Carol Stream police.

Ratcliff's wife, Brenda, has said she and their three adult children would not pay his bond because they "fear for our safety as well as his if he were released."

Reached by email Wednesday, she declined to comment on the divorce petition, notarized in Los Angeles County, Calif., on March 13 and filed in DuPage two days later.

The petition cites "irreconcilable differences" and says the couple married in Laredo, Texas, on Dec. 16, 1978.

In the indictment, Donald Ratcliff is accused of having pictures and videos of children younger than 13. Prosecutors have said many of the images involved children younger than 5.

If found guilty of all seven counts, Ratcliff could be sentenced to up to 49 years in prison. That's according to legislation signed last summer mandating consecutive terms of probation or three to seven years in prison for aggravated child pornography convictions.

Ratcliff, who holds a doctorate of psychology and whose research has focused on children's spirituality, had taught at Wheaton College since 2006. He was placed on administrative leave after his arrest and fired March 14, a college spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Ratcliff was being held on $300,000 bail and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday in front of Judge John Kinsella.

Wheaton defense attorney Dan Collins, who represents Ratcliff, declined to comment.

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