A Winthrop Harbor teenager pleaded not guilty Thursday to sexually abusing three young girls in his mother's licensed at-home day-care business.
Brett A. Degler, 17, is charged with multiple counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
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Degler, who entered the pleas during his arraignment before Lake County Associate Judge Ted Potkonjak, is held at the Lake County jail on a $500,000 bond.
Potkonjak informed Degler he's eligible for an extended sentence of life in prison if convicted on multiple offenses against the girls. Potkonjak also said Degler would be eligible for an extended sentence of 6 to 60 years behind bars.
"Either way, that's a long time," Potkonjak told Degler, who was charged as an adult in the case.
Winthrop Harbor police said two of the victims were 11 years old, and the third was 4 at the time of the attacks. Degler was arrested March 9 after a two-week investigation that started after one of the girls complained of pain to her parents. Police said the attacks started in November and had occurred for five months. The molestation took place when Degler's mother was in a different room in the house or out at a store, according to authorities.
Cheryl Degler owned and operated the day-care facility, police said. They said she had no knowledge of the attacks.
Authorities said Cheryl Degler voluntarily terminated her day-care license when police informed her of the accusations against her son, and she is no longer in business. Police said Cheryl Degler will not be charged in the case.
Brett Degler is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing May 16.