Press Release

August 4, 2006

 

Wilmington man guilty of sexually assaulting girl with cerebral palsy

 

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced Friday that a jury found a 68-year-old Wilmington man guilty of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy and is paralyzed below the neck.

 

The jury deliberated for roughly two hours before returning guilty verdicts against Lawrence Southwood on three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

 

Southwood, who cared for the victim while her mother was away, sexually molested the girl on at least three occasions between August and December 2005. The victim testified Southwood committed these acts in her mother’s bedroom while her mother was working or away from the house.

 

The girl has minimal control of her body and cannot sit upright without assistance. She spends much of her time in a wheelchair equipped with a harness to support her. She testified that Southwood would take her out of her wheelchair and arrange her on the bed before he sexually abused her.

 

“Lawrence Southwood was convicted of the most depraved act of sexual abuse imaginable,” Glasgow said. “He sexually violated a vulnerable, physically disabled girl who had absolutely no physical ability to defend herself. But she fought back the only way she could -- on the witness stand, where she bravely testified against this vile sexual predator.”

 

Southwood faces up to 104 years in prison when he is sentenced before Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak on Oct. 18.

 

Testimony at this week’s four-day trial revealed that Southwood paid the victim’s mother $10,000 to remain silent about the sexual abuse. The mother, Kimberly Riordan, 32, of Wilmington, faces one count of criminal neglect of a disabled person, one count of obstructing justice and one count of concealing a fugitive.

 

The neglect charge alleges Riordan failed to remove the victim from Southwood’s care despite knowing the danger he posed to the girl. The obstruction charge alleges she gave false information to an investigator after receiving $10,000 from Southwood. And the concealment charge alleges she concealed her knowledge of the sexual assault to prevent Southwood from being apprehended. Riordan is scheduled to be tried on Oct. 16.

 

Southwood, who is a convicted sex offender, was arrested on Dec. 25 after his own adult daughter contacted a detective from the state’s attorney’s office with allegations he had sexually abused a minor.

 

The victim was interviewed by a skilled forensic interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center on Dec. 23. Glasgow established the center in 1995 to assist law enforcement in obtaining statements from sexually abused children that will hold up in court against sexual predators who target children. Prosecutors Lea Norbut-Sicinski and John Connor entered a tape of that interview into evidence during the trial.

 

“Lea Norbut-Sicinski and John Connor were charged with the difficult task of making sure this dangerous child molester would never harm another innocent child, and they performed flawlessly,” Glasgow said. 

 

Southwood confessed the sexual assault to Detective Sgt. Dave Margliano of the Channahon Police Department. Margliano, who investigated the case, is on special assignment to the state’s attorney’s office. Margliano testified that he interviewed Southwood at the Will County Jail shortly after his arrest.

Southwood also told a convicted prostitute and his cellmate at the Will County Jail about the sexual assaults.

 

Glasgow praised everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of Southwood, including Norbut-Sicinski, Connor, Margliano, Mary Jane Pluth, who interviewed the victim for the Children’s Advocacy Center, and Kelly Sullivan, the state’s attorney’s victim-witness advocate.

 

“They all displayed tremendous skill and sensitivity working with this young girl as they built and prosecuted a successful case against this dangerous sexual abuser,” Glasgow said.

 

The state’s attorney added: “Thanks also go out to Channahon Police Chief Steve Admonis and Channahon Mayor Joe Cook for their vision and creativity in allowing Det. Sgt. Margliano to work as a special investigator in my office. It was the sources that Margliano had cultivated over the years that broke this case wide open.”

 

With regard to the Riordan case, the Will County State's Attorney's Office reminds the public that charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Contact:
Charles B. Pelkie 
(815) 727-8789
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
cpelkie@willcountyillinois.com 

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