CHICAGO (CBS) — Police and child protective services are scrambling to explain why multiple men who sexually abused a 10-year-old girl remain free, even though the suspects are known.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini revealed Thursday night how the system failed to protect the little girl, despite years of warnings and calls for help.
At the Grand Motel at 10022 S. Halsted St., on the top floor, in room 324, something terrible happened to a little girl just 10 years old. Not even out of elementary school yet, she was taken there by a 47-year-old man from her neighborhood and sexually exploited.
This type of abuse is something Brenda Myers-Powell has been fighting, to protect victims, as co-founder of The Dreamcatcher Foundation.
“We have no idea what type of ugly things he did to her in that room,” said Myers-Powell, who describes the type of person she believes does something like this as “a dog; a predator; a very, very sick person.”
No one from the motel would talk about the incident. But CBS 2 Investigators obtained police records showing motel staff called 911 and told officers the man’s name and date he checked in with the girl. It has been four months, yet no one has been arrested.
“Why wasn’t he locked up? That needs to be answered. Why did they not lock that man up?” said Myers-Powell, who was appointed to the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
Hearing about what happened to this little girl, she said, “It just made me sick.” She said she plans to bring this case to the national council.
Police reports reveal for nearly half the little girl’s life, from age 7 to 10, she was sexually assaulted by at least five different men – including men in their 40s and 50s.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was alerted to these and other abuses dating back to 2016. Numerous reports called into the abuse hotline including calls from her school.
Despite all this, the little girl was never placed in protective custody. Instead, the abuse continued until she was finally found at the motel in October.
The DCFS refused to say anything about the pattern of abuse this child endured. CBS 2 Investigators used Chicago Police reports, obtained through a public records request, to piece together a tale of systemic failures that let her down – how her abusers were never charged, and how child protective services failed to get her the help she needed to escape a horrifying world of child exploitation.
In fact, just days before she ended up at the Grand Motel, police had their grasp on another one of her alleged abusers. He too is accused of taking her to a motel, and he also was never arrested.
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert has spent 30 years working to protect abused children. It is his job to challenge the DCFS when they fail.
He said the girl should have received protective services when she was first assaulted at age 7. He also wants to know why the accused men have not been arrested.
“I’ve seen a lot. This has to be one of the very worst cases,” said Golbert. “It’s just, it’s disgusting.”
He confirms it was not until workers at the Grand Motel called 911 last October that the DCFS finally went before a Cook County judge to get approval to move the girl into the custody of a state-funded protective care program.
“DCFS commonly leaves kids in very dangerous situations, where they continue to be abused, instead of bringing cases to court and rescuing children,” Golbert said. “This case illustrates that.”
He said because the child did not get help sooner, when the abuse first started, her emotional issues grew drastically worse – leaving deep and lasting effects on the victim.
“And so now, a judge is really mad at DCFS,” said Golbert, “for not doing anything for four years.”
Golbert said the judge also is angry “because DCFS says they have nowhere to place her, because her emotional problems are so advanced.”
The DCFS ended up placing the girl in a psychiatric hospital in December. By mid-January, she was finally cleared to be released to a residential care facility.
It has now been more than a month since she should have been transferred. Instead, she still remains locked up inside a psychiatric facility.
“This girl has been in a locked psychiatric hospital for a month after she’s been ready for discharge,” said Golbert, “because DCFS has nowhere to place her – a long standing problem.”
He explained what life is like for children committed to psychiatric units when they don’t need to be.
“It’s horrible,” Golbert said. “You’re locked up indoors all day. They get about one hour of outdoor recreation every day. They lose schooling.”
While this little girl has remained locked up, her offenders remain free. It sends dangerous message to the child, said Myers-Powell.
“That says: ‘I’m the garbage that the man who abused me said I was,’” she said. “That says that I don’t matter, and the world showed me I don’t matter because I’m locked in a box.”
Just Wednesday, DCFS admitted in court they can’t even find their own case reports showing what, if anything, they did to help this girl when she was first assaulted at the age of 7.
The CBS 2 Investigators also learned that when police found the girl at the Grand Motel in October, they simply took her home instead of to a hospital to be examined. On Thursday night because of our CBS 2 investigation, the CPD said it is now launching a thorough review of how they handled all the abuse cases involving this girl.
Chicago Police issued the following statement:
“Protecting the lives and wellbeing of children is the highest priority of the Chicago Police Department. We have initiated a thorough review of how this disturbing series of allegations of abuse and neglect was handled by CPD. While the criminal investigations are ongoing, CPD is taking a close look at our policies around missing youth and we are committed to strengthening our guidelines, training, and protocols. We are also working with our partners in social services, education, and healthcare to be more extensive and trauma informed to better support youth and families. We are all committed to ensuring the safety of Chicago’s children.”
DCFS issued this statement:
“DCFS takes any allegations of abuse or neglect very seriously, and is working diligently to ensure this youth receives the appropriate care. We cannot comment further due to ongoing investigations.”