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Article updated: 4/27/2013 5:57 PM

Monk charged with attempting to abduct 14-year-old Antioch girl

By Barbara Vitello

A Benedictine monk is charged with attempting to lure a 14-year-old girl into his car in Antioch.

Thomas J. Chmura, who told police he has lived at the St. Benedict's Abbey in Benet Lake, Wis. for the past 32 years, appeared Saturday before a Lake County judge, who set his bail at $50,000 and ordered that he have no contact with anyone under age 17.

The teenage girl provided police with a detailed description of an older white male, about 40-50 years old with a brownish/gray beard and blue eyes who followed her in a silver station wagon as she walked south on Skidmore Drive about 8 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement from Antioch police.

The driver asked the girl if she wanted a ride. When she declined, he said, "Come on, you're so beautiful, let me drive you home," police said. When she declined a second time, the driver said "Get in the car," at which point she ran and the vehicle drove away.

Police issued a bulletin to local law enforcement and checked the area for the driver and vehicle.

Friday afternoon an off-duty Antioch police officer observed a Ford station wagon matching the girl's description pull up alongside three females walking on the sidewalk, causing a traffic backup, police said. Noting that the driver matched the teenager's description, the officer took down the license plate number, and attempted to follow the vehicle until he lost sight of it at the Wisconsin state line.

Several hours later, Antioch police noticed the same vehicle southbound on Route 83, stopped it and arrested Chmura. He was charged with attempted child abduction, a class 4 felony, and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Police say Chmura admitted approaching the girl and said he has offered rides to teenage girls between five and 10 times during the past six weeks but all declined his offer.

A spokeswoman for St. Benedicts Abbey declined to comment.

If convicted of the felony, Chmura could face one to three years in prison. Probation is also an option.

He next appears on court on April 30.

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