JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced Tuesday that a 69-year-old Wilmington man who sexually abused a 14-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy received the maximum sentence of 104 years in prison for his crime.
In handing down the stiffest sentence possible under the law Tuesday, Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak said he agreed with prosecutors who had called Lawrence Southwood a predator. The judge said that in his 30 years serving in the criminal justice system, he had never seen a crime that had “reached this level.”
“The victim in this case had absolutely no means whatsoever of running or walking away or doing anything to get herself out of the situation she was in,” Rozak said during sentencing, adding: “She was totally, totally defenseless.”
A jury in August convicted Southwood on three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Southwood also has served time in prison on charges of rape and attempted murder in cases dating back to the 1960s.
In sentencing Southwood, the judge took into consideration the extent of the victim’s disability and the defendant’s criminal history.
“Lawrence Southwood will spend the rest of his life in prison for committing these unbelievably depraved acts of sexual abuse against a vulnerable young girl,” Glasgow said. “She fought back against this sick predator on the witness stand, and today she received some measure of justice for the innocence he stole.”
The state’s attorney added: “Judge Rozak’s well-researched decision to impose the maximum sentence sends the strongest possible warning to child predators. This crime was a moral outrage, and the judge left no doubt about the severity of punishment necessary to protect our children and deter others from committing such atrocities.”
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 during the trial that 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. During the trial, she testified Southwood took her out of her wheelchair and arranged her on the bed before he sexually abused her.
Testimony during a four-day trial in August also 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. Her trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 4.
Southwood 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.
A skilled forensic interviewer from the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center took the girl’s statement regarding the sexual abuse 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.
Assistant State’s Attorneys Lea Norbut-Sicinski, who heads the state’s attorney’s criminal division, and John Connor entered a tape of that interview into evidence during the trial.
Southwood confessed the sexual abuse 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. The detective interviewed Southwood at the Will County Jail shortly after his arrest.
Southwood later told a convicted prostitute and his cellmate at the Will County Jail about the sexual abuse.
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.
Glasgow credited Margliano, a detective with extensive experience investigating child sex abuse allegations, with breaking the Southwood case open. It was through one of the many sources he has cultivated over his career that led him to investigate Southwood.
“Everyone involved in this case displayed the level of professionalism and sensitivity that is critical when interviewing young victims of sexual abuse,” the state’s attorney said. “As a result of their fine work, this dangerous sexual abuser will spend his life behind bars where he will never harm another child.”
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.