How cops used a soft sell to make arrests in 'heinous' molestation case
A Prospect Heights couple accused of what's been called the most heinous sex case in the city's history are behind bars today on charges alleging that for years they abused teenagers at their home.
But if not for some savvy work by city police detectives, suspects Christopher and Anthony Wheeler instead might be laying low among the 9 million people of Mexico City.
Prospect Heights Police Chief Al Steffen filled us in on his detectives' good work this week after Cook County prosecutors announced a raft of new charges against the Wheelers.
Steffen said the pair were tipped off that authorities were looking into them back in early March, when an investigator from the Department of Children and Family Services knocked on their door asking questions. DCFS and police had launched parallel investigations after hearing the couple had been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager.
The questioning led the Wheelers to flee to California, where they set up temporarily in a hotel while making plans for a more permanent home in Mexico, Steffen said. They even bought bus tickets to Mexico City, police say.
Making the 'soft sell'
The Wheelers' flight left police scrambling to find a way to get them back to Prospect Heights before they escaped the country.
How'd they do it?
"The investigators had to make the soft sell," Steffen said. "They had to play down the entire investigation to the suspects and their families, make it seem like it wasn't a big deal. They were told there was not a whole lot to it."
Steffen's detectives must make for some pretty good salesmen, because the Wheelers were back in the suburbs by the end of March. By then, Steffen said, investigators had enough information to bring charges and arrest the pair.
"They were very professional, very methodical and very persistent," Steffen said of his detectives.
Christopher, 30, and Anthony, 25, now face a combined 20 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault with force, 15 counts of criminal sexual abuse and 57 counts of child pornography. They're being held without bond in the Cook County jail.
From bad to worse
Aurora police say a man running late for a court appearance earlier this month came up with a terrible idea to excuse his tardiness, and now he'll have to plan to be on time for two court cases.
Police said Tyrees Rodriquez, 24, of Chicago, reported he was robbed at knife point Oct. 4 after getting off a Metra train at the Aurora Transportation Center.
But when an officer reviewed security video from the center, police said Thursday, it showed no evidence of a stickup. It turns out Rodriguez was late for a hearing at the Kendall County courthouse in Yorkville, so he made up the robbery to cover for his lack of punctuality, police say.
Rodriguez now faces a felony disorderly conduct charge.
Drug case dealt blow
Kane County prosecutors say they're weighing their options for what to do next now that a state appeals court has decided a sheriff's sergeant acted improperly during a heroin bust nearly two years ago along the Jane Addams Tollway.
In a unanimous ruling issued last week, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois upheld a lower court finding that a Kane County sheriff's sergeant "unduly prolonged" the routine traffic stop near Elgin, allowing time for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive and help authorities discover nearly a pound of uncut heroin, two guns and about $8,000 cash.
The finding led Judge D.J. Tegeler last year to bar prosecutors from using the evidence in the drug case against three Minnesota residents. The Kane County state's attorney appealed, and lost. Now prosecutors must decide whether they can continue the case against Jessica Johnson, Leo Cook and Derek Paddy without evidence of what was seized.
By the way, the sergeant who made the traffic stop is Ron Hain, who earlier this year announced he is running for sheriff.
That was quick
Johnson, Cook and Paddy already have sued Hain, a sheriff's detective and the county over their arrest.
Their federal lawsuit, filed Thursday in Chicago, claims they were stopped, searched and arrested unlawfully, and such conduct goes unpunished by the sheriff's office. They're seeking undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages.
Courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff's Office
Who's a good boy?
Best wishes to Dakar, the 10-year-old German shepherd who retired from duty this month after nearly eight years of service with the Kane County sheriff's office.
Since joining the force Nov. 9, 2009, Dakar has found illicit drugs more than 160 times, including more than 500 pounds of cannabis, 55 pounds of cocaine, 4 pounds of heroin and 1½ pounds of methamphetamine.
He also searched for suspects and tracked down other evidence, according to Sheriff Don Kramer.
He will spend his golden years in the home of his handler.
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