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will probe bring justice in town\'s rape scandal?
Evidence of rape is stored in the moldy basement of the police station: brown paper shopping bags filled with sneakers, bras and underpants, stuck on metal shelves.
Scattered blood bottles and swabs full of dust and mold-
Stock accumulated over 25 years.
Cara Smith, Cook County Sheriff\'s assistant, knew something was wrong as soon as he saw the chaos, including 176 rape kits dating back to 1986.
In addition to the victims, many of these crimes have long been forgotten.
Smith began investigating the cases and finally came to a disturbing conclusion: in most reported incidents of rape, it seems that Robins police did little or no follow-up at all
Despite the results of the crime lab
In nearly three cases, the police did not even submit physical evidence for analysis.
These findings raise a daunting question: is there any way, in some cases, to correct the mistakes of a generation?
The answer will come from the Cook County Sheriff\'s Office, where Smith and investigators spend most of the year working to review cases, research records, interview victims, even if the key parts are missing, also try to put the puzzle together.
Along the way, they encountered setbacks and obstacles.
In many cases, no one can be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.
One of the most infuriating things, Smith said, is that investigators recently interviewed a 14-person suspected of rape-year-
Old Robins girl 20 years ago
But she says there is still hope in dozens of other cases, with DNA evidence in almost all cases.
The sheriff\'s office hopes to report the findings early next year and again calls on the victims to come forward.
But any success of investigators must be modest.
\"We realize there will be some big disappointment,\" Smith said . \".
\"Justice is a strange word when we talk about sexual assault.
It will not be erased and they will not forget it.
Hopefully our attention to these cases, someone who cares and believes in what\'s going on with them --
This may be the end of justice for these women.
\"Does this mean that some rapists will never pay for their crimes?
\"There is a guarantee,\" Smith said . \"
\"I know their names.
Robins is a small suburb of southern Chicago with a history of huge problems.
In the first wave of mass immigration, the town emerged, when thousands of Southern blacks moved to the north and many settled in the Chicago area.
But as Robbins grows, the trouble increases.
Crime, corruption and poverty.
Today, in a community with few resources, abandoned houses and weeds, almost 5,400 residents of many robots have not been scraped down. filled lots.
According to census data, the median household income in 2010 was about $22,000, while the state average was about $55,000.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart intervened at the Robins police station last winter after his second drunk driving arrest in less than three years, and the town police chief resigned.
No money, and most of it is-
Robins welcomed help, including assistance with patrols and homicide investigations.
Dart was familiar with Robin\'s history during his tenure as prosecutor, and he was ready for trouble.
But, he said, \"we don\'t know the size of it.
\"At a town hall meeting on February, when residents criticized the police and complained about brazen crimes, the scope became apparent, including a gang of thieves, when elderly women went to church, their goal is their home.
At that meeting, Dart also raised the issue of rape, promising to deal with the untested kit, as it could help to alleviate local suspicions about the authorities.
\"Every piece of evidence there represents a person who was raped and asked for help. . .
\"I got nothing,\" Smith said . \"
\"How does this affect your future life?
Can you trust the police? or not?
\"At the heart of the scandal is what the Robins police did or didn\'t do --
And how to explain it.
\"Lack of ability --
This is the best-
\"Smith said. \"The worst-case scenario?
Indifferent to crime
Dart calls it \"severe incompetence, neglect, and lack of attention\" and attributes it to several factors: parttime force (
Most officers work three days a week).
Training and supervision are not in place. And paltry pay.
He said some officials earn only $10 an hour.
\"To be honest, you got what you paid for,\" said the sheriff . \". \". . .
$10 an hour, you can go soon
To make matters worse, these problems have been around for decades or even decades.
\"This has almost become a system,\" he said . \"
\"Are there all kinds of red flags?
Oh, God, please. Absolutely.
\"Last week, more turmoil.
Police Chief Melvin Davis has been informed in writing since taking office in June that he will be dismissed on November.
According to Smith,
Davis, who fired more than 20% uniformed officers during his tenure, said they were \"not suitable for the job \".
\"It is not clear whether his dismissal is related to the resignation of a part --
The time police captain, who also left last week, misrepresented his credentials on charges.
Both were hired to clean up the department.
Mayor Tyrone Ward responded with anger and issued a press release saying he would work with Dart, but the sheriff\'s office would not \"take over\" the Robins police.
In an earlier interview, Davis blamed the Department for the rape case \"old-
The \"school police\" tried to solve the crime by knocking on the door.
\"They didn\'t come up-to-
\"Technical date,\" he said . \".
\"Some of these cases can be resolved if they are only properly trained.
Davis also said he believes many rape investigations have been withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.
The sheriff\'s investigators now have only 45 police reports of rape cases and have so far interviewed about 10 victims.
Smith said it was difficult to track them.
One of the few people she declined to be named was Rosa Pickett.
She approached Dart after the town meeting and said she was raped in 1977 --
Her case is older than the one being reviewed.
But she still wanted the answer and asked him, \"Why don\'t you investigate me?
Her attack happened yesterday, she said.
1977, when she was 17: she was going to her sister\'s birthday party when a man grabbed her from behind and pinched her with a belt until she was temporarily unconscious and slammed her face, raped her.
At the hospital, she spoke to a Robins officer who took pictures of her bruises.
Pickett later described the person who attacked her and was confident in her arrest.
\"I just knew they wouldn\'t let me down because of the way he beat me,\" she said . \".
Now Pickett, 53year-
The old grandmother said she never heard from the police again.
The rape almost ruined her, she added.
\"I had a plan when I was 17. . . .
\"I want to do a lot of things in my life,\" she said . \".
\"I want to be a successful person. . . .
But it happened to me after that, and nothing was done about it. . . .
I\'m mean and angry.
I don\'t have school.
I became a bully.
I ended up taking drugs.
\"Ten years later, she said, an incredible thing happened while taking drugs: she met the attacker at a party at a friend\'s house.
She hurriedly told the police that it was too late for the police to tell her.
Pickett says she hasn\'t taken drugs for 20 years and she\'s still angry.
\"I feel like everyone let me down,\" she said . \".
\"The person who raped me violated my life.
The police let me down.
I was disappointed by Robins village.
\"No rape kits or police reports were recorded for the Pickett attack.
But this spring, Smith searched the filing cabinet of the police station and found a 3-by-
The notification card with Pickett\'s name and the date of her attack.
Pickett said: \"This is the only evidence that I was raped that day.
There was evidence of another brutal rape. a 14-year-
Old attack of 1991
Smith said the case is a microcosm of the broader injustice in the investigation.
After the basketball training, the girl was caught home.
When she fought with the attacker, they fell from the guardrail to a stream and the man pushed her face into the water to try to drown her.
She died and survived.
The national crime lab found potential DNA evidence and told Robins police, but there was no indication that they would pursue the lead, Smith said.
Two detectives in charge of the case were later jailed for taking bribes from drug dealers that had nothing to do with rape.
This spring, the victim, is now 36. year-
The old mother contacted Smith. he had a private lab.
Analyze the evidence.
She said that within 24 hours, a suspect in the national DNA database served 14 years for armed robbery.
Investigators put a flag on his file to remind them if he was arrested.
When the man was charged in Nebraska this fall, the sheriff\'s investigators drove there.
During the inquiry, Smith said, he admitted that at the time Robins had sex, claiming that the girl might be 16 years old and ran away when she screamed \"you raped me.
He refused to say more.
It was too late to sue, and Smith was frustrated again.
\"If you have a cold, it\'s one thing if you don\'t know who the bad guys are,\" she said . \".
\"Knowing exactly who he is, knowing exactly where he is, and not being able to treat this woman fairly, is quite another matter.
Darlene Zohfeld said she was also wronged by the police.
She said that her 2002 rape occurred after she left the party and found her car towed away.
She said a man at the gas station took the initiative to drive her home, but took her to the wooded area where he attacked her.
After checking in the hospital, she said she went back to her friend\'s house, where another woman told her that she actually met the man at the same gas station, where he tried to pick her up
He told the woman his name and phone number.
When Zohfeld revealed the details to the police, she said they knew the man because he worked at a Traction Company that had business dealings with the village.
When he was brought in to ask, she was
Husband Bruce was surprised to see him chatting kindly with an officer.
Bruce zofield recalled, and then went back to where he was.
\"Do you know what you are accusing this man ? \"
He may be sentenced to 20 to 30 years\' imprisonment.
How do you feel about taking the lie detector test?
She immediately said she would. \" (
Such a claim violates national law. )
Bruce zofeld said the police tried to imply that it was a sexual act agreed by both parties, but he noted that he was at the time
Half the wife.
When she ran for help, she was naked, bruised and screaming.
\"It doesn\'t sound like the two sides agreed,\" he told police . \".
\"Everyone has their story,\" he said . \"
\"It\'s not just not being investigated,\" Zohfeld said . \".
\"They protected a rapist.
They let him go if they knew who he was.
Smith said: \"This summer, DNA evidence in the Zohfeld case matched another rape incident that took place a few months later.
The situation is surprisingly similar: a woman waiting at a bus stop received a ride from a man driving the same unique truck.
Investigators are checking reports of the man\'s death.
But Smith says it can still bring peace to Zohfeld if it proves to be true: \"She knows at least that he hasn\'t attacked anyone else, and she knows that someone doesn\'t care about her.
\"Despite the many setbacks, Smith still hopes that there will be a prosecution after the case review is completed.
But, she admits, \"any of our successes will turn pale compared to the harm to the community.
\"Earlier, Sheriff Dart consulted lawyers, judges and others in the hope of finding a legal way to bypass the statute of limitations to allow prosecution of old cases.
\"We are still working hard,\" he said . \"
\"But is our hope slim? Yeah.
I don\'t want to mislead others. . . .
There is no simple road now.
At the moment, Dart says he can only express regret and tell the victim: \"I\'m sorry to be a society that has disappointed you . \".
Comment: Sharon Cohen is from Chicago
Based on national writers, you can get in touch at scooping @ ap.
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