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Police sergeant was charged the rapes of four women in their homes

by Greg Cima Sunday, Jul. 16, 2006 at 2:53 PM

A police sergeant was charged with the rapes of four women in their homes.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 1:05 AM CDT

Pelo charged with sex assaults

By Greg Cima

BLOOMINGTON -- A Bloomington police sergeant was charged Friday afternoon with the rapes of four women in their homes between December 2002 and January 2005.

Jeff S. Pelo, a 17-year department veteran, appeared in court in handcuffs and a blue jumpsuit as he was read the charges against him: four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and two counts of home invasion. Prosecutors say the home invasion charges are connected with the last two rapes, which occurred in January 2005.

Pelo is scheduled for arraignment July 21 on the latest charges.

As was first reported by the Pantagraph, Pelo had been a suspect in the rapes after his arrest June 10 on accusations he tried to break into a woman’s home on the east side.

The 41-year-old was arrested when he appeared for an arraignment at 9 a.m. Friday on those previously filed charges of residential burglary and aggravated stalking charges. He pleaded innocent to those charges.

Bloomington police spokesman David White said the rapes for which Pelo is charged are the same ones that investigators working with FBI profilers determined could be connected. Bloomington police officials said in February 2005 they had no evidence of a rapist committing multiple offenses, but announced 10 months later that the cases — all involving single women in their 20s — could be connected.

Pelo’s attorney, Steve Skelton, said he did not believe his client would be convicted on Friday’s charges.

“I’m resolute in my belief in his innocence,” Skelton said.

Skelton called Pelo’s bond amount astronomical, and said he will seek a reduction. Pelo posted ,000 in the stalking case, and now needs to post 0,000 to be released on the new charges.

Skelton said after the hearing that Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Messman’s statements showed substantial differences in what happened in the rapes, and the methods in connected rape cases tend to show stark similarities.

The victims in the last two rapes identified Pelo in a photo lineup and in a series of voice samples, Messman said. The woman attacked in April 2003 described strong similarities between her attacker and Pelo in a photo lineup and narrowed to three a series of voice samples she could not eliminate, including one from Pelo, Messman said.

Skelton said Pelo’s picture has appeared in print and electronic media numerous times and that could interfere with the accuracy of such a lineup.

Skelton said the charges came as more of a surprise to him than any move by prosecutors in his nearly 30 years of practice, he said. He first felt a sense of dread when a judge told him and Pelo they needed to meet with law enforcement in a security hallway to the courtroom Friday morning, he said.

Police searched Pelo’s home near Downs after his first arrest and confiscated a mask, a pry bar and items that could be used to bind a person, Messman said.

Pelo was placed on paid administrative leave following his first arrest. White said he did not know Friday if he was still on paid leave, but knew his status had not changed because of Friday’s charges.

Skelton described the accusations as a “kick in the jaw,” and he was worried for the emotional state of his client.

Prosecutors have said a woman called police about 12:20 a.m. June 10 and said someone was trying to break into her house through a front door and window. Officers found Pelo near the house, and he was arrested later that day.

Prosecutors later said Pelo used personal information in a police report, which was filed by the woman sometime last year, in stalking her. Skelton said official reports will show if Pelo had contact with any of the victims, and he did not have access to those reports.

Vickie Smith, director of Stepping Stones, the YWCA’s sexual assault survivors’ program, said the new charges bring hope the man behind the rapes was caught.

“But we won’t know for sure, obviously, until he goes to court and goes through a trial as to whether he’s going to be found guilty,” Smith said. “But hopefully the person who has committed these stranger rapes has been caught and is off the street and everybody can breathe a sigh of relief.”

Smith said it is sad that the man charged in the case is a police officer. But she said it is encouraging that he was arrested by Bloomington police and charged by county prosecutors.

Smith said she hopes that if there are any more victims in such attacks, they will come forward.

Prosecutors are asking anyone with information on the investigation to call Bloomington Detective Clay Wheeler at (309) 434-2368 or Detective Matthew Dick at (309) 434-2475.

Rape case details

Court documents and a statement read in court by Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Messman show Bloomington police Sgt. Jeff Pelo is charged in the following rapes in Bloomington:

Dec. 18, 2002: A woman woke to find a man in her room, and he held a knife to her throat, threatened to hurt her if she resisted and told her he had been watching her. He then raped the woman.

April 4, 2003: Another woman woke to find a man in her room, and he threatened to shoot her if she resisted or cried out. The man then forcibly raped her.

Jan. 4, 2005: A woman saw a man had entered her room, and he displayed a knife. The man told her he “had done this before,” and he forcibly raped the woman.

Jan. 25 or 26, 2005: A man armed with a gun entered a woman’s room. The man threatened the woman’s family if she resisted, recited her family’s address, and forcibly raped her.

SOURCE: Court documents; Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Messman; Compiled by Greg Cima

Bloomington police sergeant now charged with 4 rapes


Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - A Bloomington police sergeant was charged with four rapes dating back to 2002 on Friday, two days after he was indicted on charges of stalking a woman who found him lurking outside her house late at night wearing dark clothing.

McLean County prosecutors also charged Jeff Pelo, 41, with two counts of home invasion, alleging he was armed with a knife in one case and a gun in another.

"Police believe that, based upon similarities in the assaults, that one man is responsible for all four assaults," Assistant State's Attorney Mark Messman said, reading in court from a probable cause statement.

Two of the victims identified Pelo from a photo lineup, and police found a mask, pry bar and other items in his home that appeared to have been used in at least one of the assaults, Messman said.

Pelo did not speak during the brief hearing before Associate Judge Rebecca Foley, who set bond at million. His wife left without comment, escorted by courthouse security.

Pelo's attorney, Steve Skelton, said later that he's certain his client is innocent.

"I don't think under the circumstances that there's any likelihood of a conviction in this case because I'm firmly convinced today, as I was several weeks ago, of the innocence of my client," Skelton said.

Pelo, a 17-year department veteran, was charged last month with attempting to break into a home after a woman called police about 12:30 a.m. on June 10 to report that someone was trying to get into her house. An officer spotted Pelo, who was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts.

Pelo told the officer he was out looking for a home for his mother-in-law. He was allowed to leave but was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary later that day after taking a police department promotional examination.

He was placed on administrative leave June 11. Prosecutors later added a charge of aggravated stalking to the attempted burglary charge, saying he had stalked the woman at least twice before, in April.

A grand jury indicted Pelo on those charges on Wednesday, and he was in court for a hearing on the indictment Friday when he was arrested on the new, more serious charges.

"It not only took my client by surprise, it took me by surprise," Skelton said of Friday's arrest.

According to the charges, the rapes took place on Dec. 18, 2002; April 4, 2003; Jan. 4, 2005; and Jan. 26, 2005. Pelo was charged with home invasion in the 2005 rapes.

Skelton said Pelo's bond was "in the astronomical range" and said he would ask that it be reduced. Pelo is scheduled to appear in court again on July 21.

Messman read a brief news release after the hearing but refused to answer questions and said the prosecutor's office would make no further comment.

Pelo was being held at the McLean County Jail. He was still on paid administrative leave, said police department spokesman Dave White.

White said the department had no further comment on the new charges, referring questions to the state's attorney's office.

Officer faces rape charges

Bloomington sergeant accused of assaulting four

Saturday, July 15, 2006



BLOOMINGTON - A Bloomington police sergeant charged with stalking a Bloomington woman and attempting to break into her home June 10 has now been charged with raping four women between December 2002 and January 2005.

In addition to four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, Sgt. Jeff Pelo, 41, was charged

Friday in McLean County Circuit Court with two counts of home invasion while armed with a knife on one count and a gun in the other count.

During one of the attacks, Pelo threatened the woman's family and recited their address to her, Assistant State's Attorney Mark Messman said. In another, Pelo threatened to shoot the woman, Messman said.

Police searched Pelo's residence and found a mask, pry bar and other items which were used in at least one of the assaults, Messman said.

"Police believe that based upon similarities in the assaults, one man is responsible for all four assaults," he said.

Two of the women identified Pelo from a photograph lineup and in a police voice-identification lineup. One woman narrowed the voice samples to three and did not eliminate Pelo.

The woman Pelo is accused of stalking identified Pelo in a lineup.

The woman called 911 about 12:30 a.m. June 10. A few minutes later, a responding officer found Pelo pressed against the side of the woman's residence. He was dressed in black athletic shorts and a black shirt.

When asked what he was doing at the residence, Pelo told the officer he was house hunting for his mother-in-law.

Prosecutors say Pelo, who worked as a desk sergeant, obtained the woman's information from a police report she filed.

Pelo, a 17-year-department veteran, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on charges of aggravated stalking and attempted residential burglary. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday.

Pelo was accompanied to court by his wife, Rickielee Pelo, who was escorted out by court security and did not comment.

Steve Skelton, Pelo's attorney, said there were many "dissimilarities" between the four rapes, including the use of knife and then a gun by the attacker.

"I don't think there's any believable reason he could be charged . . . I'm firmly convinced of the innocence of my client," Skelton said.

Bond was set at million by McLean County Associate Judge Rebecca Foley. Skelton called the bond amount "astronomical."

Pelo would have to post 0,000 to be released. He had been free after posting ,000, and Skelton said he couldn't "foresee any way (Pelo) can conceivably pay 0,000."

Skelton said he will file a motion to for bond to be set at a "reasonable amount."

Pelo has been on paid administration leave since June 11.

Pelo will return to court on July 21 on the new charges.

Andrea Frampton can be reached at 686-3041 or
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