Viewpoint: Mother charges sex offender case mishandled

Viewpoint: Mother charges sex offender case mishandled

By Joe Baker

Mother charges sex offender case mishandled

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

So far as former Rockford resident Elizabeth Severson is concerned, Winnebago County does a poor job of prosecuting sexual predator cases. Her daughters were victims of just such a man.

The two girls, then 11 and 10 years old, fell prey to convicted sex offender William Henry. Henry is in prison at Pinckneyville and will be eligible for parole in 2030.

Henry was sentenced July 14 to 15 years in prison under the Class X felony sexual predator statute and to five years for molesting a minor under 13.

The offenses, she said, took place at various places in Rockford, including her home. Severson said her daughters were molested while she was at work or sleeping.

“I believe this case was mishandled by the state’s attorney,” Severson said.

She said it took about six months from the time of the incidents until Henry was arrested. She said she watched the case go from 16 charges against Henry to six charges and then to 10 charges. Bond was originally $1 million but was lowered after a hearing and Henry was released on bond.

Severson said she and her daughters were threatened by Henry, and there began a pattern of continual harassment against them.

Severson said she got no help during the entire time this went on. She said she later encountered State’s Attorney Paul Logli in a Rockford business and, in conversation, told him she was involved in the William Henry case.

She said Logli told her: “Oh, that’s the inmate who has hired other inmates to harass and chase your children and you around.” Severson said Logli then invited her to call his office when she had problems with Henry.

She said she called several times pleading for help. Numerous police reports were filed, and she contacted Sen. Dave Syverson and Rep. Doug Scott for help, but nothing was done. However, she had praise for Glen Weber of Logli’s office, staff at the Carrie Lynne Center, Monica Heatherton, Mike Polumbi

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and Margie O’Connor.

“Our lives were a living hell for months to

come,” she said. “I, in turn, went to the only place I know that would listen—the press—and listen they did.” Severson credited former radio talk show hostess Suzanne Lee and television news reporter Jim Wagner with informing the community of the situation and what was happening.

Severson said she is proud of her daughters and other victims who had the courage to face their molester in open court and give testimony that put him away.

She said her eldest daughter, now 13, continues to have emotional and psychological problems as a result of the crimes. Severson said the girl is in treatment with a professional.

“Remember, our children are our future,” Severson said. “What they learn from us, be it the truth or lies, they will someday be

our leaders. Why does the victim feel like the criminal? The answer is simple, our judicial system allows this.”

She noted child molesting is one of the few crimes that has no rehabilitation.

“Why are they ever released to begin with?,” she asked. “Say what some must, think what some might. The truth is, we came, we saw, and we did what was needed to be done. And we would do it again,” Severson added.

This kind of performance is all too common in Winnebago County. The public is fortunate that this time the perpetrator was caught and went to prison for a long time.

Too often, these predators are back on the street in a short while, free to strike again.

So long as the voters of this county are content to allow the same individuals to go into jobs like the prosecutor’s office again and again, that long will inept handling of some serious cases continue.

Now that it’s one year after her ordeal ended, Severson summed up her feelings when she said: “We don’t live in Rockford any more, and we’re not coming back.”

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