Former head of youth theater charged with child abduction, sexual abuse
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Donald R. Trotter, a 54-year-old Rockford man, is alleged to have rendezvoused with a 13-year-old Rockford girl in California last month, according to charges against him in the U.S. District Court and the 17th Judicial Circuit.
Until April, Trotter served as board president for the Children’s Theater Project and Youth Theater Project —(CTP/YTP) in Rockford, according to Cheryl Benson, administrative assistant and parent liaison for the group, which had no further comment.
Marilyn Hite-Ross, deputy of the state’s attorney’s criminal division, said Trotter had served as president since 2006. She could not confirm whether the possibility of alleged victims within the theater group had been explored, but indicated the investigation is ongoing.
The alleged victim was reported missing to the Rockford Police Department Aug. 2. She’d last been seen locally at CherryVale Mall the morning of Aug. 1.
After learning the missing girl may have traveled to California with an adult male acquaintance, the FBI located the pair in a Long Beach, Calif., apartment complex during the early morning hours of Aug. 6.
Trotter allegedly told authorities he bought the girl a ticket for an Aug.1 flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, including a limousine to pick her up and take her to the apartment.
Trotter allegedly flew to California the following day. A search of his Rockford home yielded a copy of the girl’s birth certificate, according to federal authorities.
Unable to comment regarding evidence recovered in the investigation, Hite-Ross would not speculate as to why the birth certificate had been in Trotter’s possession. Airline policies, however, typically require proof of age for unaccompanied minor passengers.
Aug. 7, the juvenile female provided a written statement to Rockford police, in which she reported alleged sexual contact with Trotter, both prior to and during the California trip, but that she knew Trotter as “Daniel Black.”
As of Sept. 9, Trotter was still listed as the CTP/YTP contact on the Rockford Area Arts Council’s Web site. After The Rock River Times referenced this in an inquiry to the theater group, Trotter’s name and e-mail address were removed the same day.
The nonprofit musical theater group was established in 2002, and is geared toward performers 6-18 years of age.
According to 17th Circuit records, Trotter’s record has been clean until the recent charges.
In addition to federal charges, Trotter faces nine counts in the 17th Circuit. Charges include child abduction, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault and unlawfully providing a minor with a travel ticket.
Chief Judge Janet Holmgren raised Trotter’s bond to $300,000, and he remains in custody. Sept. 4, Trotter pleaded not guilty. He was arraigned Sept. 15, and the case has been continued to Oct. 22.
At the request of the girl’s parents, an emergency order of protection was also issued against Trotter.
Trotter faces three Class I felony charges, which could bring four to12 years each in the Illinois Department of Corrections if convicted.
“Those may or may not be consecutive,” Hite-Ross noted. “It depends on a lot of things.”
Trotter is also accused of four Class II felonies, with maximum penalties of three to seven years each.
Child abduction, a Class 4 felony Trotter is charged with, bears a penalty of one to three years.
The charge against Trotter for allegedly taking a minor out of state is a misdemeanor, Hite-Ross said.
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