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updated: 2/24/2014 5:22 PM

Sentencing of former Wheaton College professor coming Tuesday

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  • Donald Ratcliff

      Donald Ratcliff

 
 

A former Christian education professor at Wheaton College, convicted on aggravated child pornography charges, faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday.

Donald Ratcliff, 62, was charged in March 2012 after Carol Stream police found more than 500 images of child pornography on at least three of his seven home computers and three DVDs containing videos, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to the aggravated child pornography charge last August in exchange for prosecutors dismissing six additional counts carrying a maximum prison term of 49 years because of consecutive sentencing laws for some child pornography offenses.

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Carol Stream Detective Peter Chacon's testimony opened Ratcliff's sentencing hearing Monday morning as he described interviewing Ratcliff the morning of his Feb. 29, 2012, arrest at Ratcliff's dining room table.

"He admitted to searching out child pornography using the terms '5yo,' and '6yo' up to '10yo.' (Ratcliff) said he was curious about (child pornography) at first but then got into it," Chacón testified. "He also stated he is not an active abuser of children, but he could see how that could happen."

Ratcliff was fired from his job and divorced by his wife shortly after his arrest. Since 2006, he had been a professor of Christian education at the college.

Ratcliff also had written 10 books on children's spirituality -- the focus of his academic research at the time -- and was a lay leader at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wheaton.

Dr. Romita Sillitti, a DuPage County forensic psychologist who has evaluated more than 100 sex offenders, also testified Monday that she diagnosed Ratcliff with pedophilia and depression and believes he is both in need of and a candidate for sex offender treatment.

Defense attorney Brian Telander called several of Ratcliff's acquaintances to the stand Monday to describe their friend.

The Rev. George Koch, of West Chicago's Resurrection Anglican Church, called Ratcliff a "constantly sweet, cooperative and active member" of the congregation and said he was surprised by the allegations and Ratcliff's guilty plea.

"(I was) flabbergasted," Koch said. "But he admitted it, repented, asked for forgiveness and I prayed with him."

Ratcliff's landlord, Mary Barker, who has rented to Ratcliff since his April 2012 release from jail on bond, said she sees Ratcliff daily and finds him to be generous and honest.

"He's a very nice person, and I find him to be remorseful," she said. "He wishes he'd never gone down that road."

DuPage County Judge John Kinsella will hear closing arguments and hand down his sentence at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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