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Family upset after police release suspect in sexual abuse of 11-year-old girl; CPD seeking more evidence

CPD says it needs more evidence before arresting suspect in sexual abuse of 11-year-old girl
CPD says it needs more evidence before arresting suspect in sexual abuse of 11-year-old girl 02:35

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The family of an 11-year-old girl who was sexually abused in Washington Park last week is asking authorities to formally charge a man neighbors confronted on Monday, but police said they are still building a case against the suspect.

The girl's family said neighbors spotted a man matching the description of the girl's attacker on Monday, and held him at the scene until police took him into custody. They also said the girl identified him as her attacker.

However, while police confirmed that person is a suspect in the case, they said he was no longer in custody Tuesday morning, because they don't have enough evidence yet to make an arrest and seek charges.

"We have to follow the law, and so we want to share very limited information right now, because we do want to have enough evidence to make an arrest, and to seek charges. It's a nation of laws, it is. So we have to follow the law, have to have the evidence that we can use, so that the state's attorney will have a chance at approving charges," Police Supt. David Brown said.

Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said the detective assigned to the case is in contact with the girl's family, and is working with the Cook County State's Attorney's office to build a case and bring charges.

"We're working with the family, and we're continuing to build our case," he said.

The family is furious that police let the man go.

"My daughter is scared. I just want y'all to keep him in there, please. She's 100% sure that this is him," her mother said Tuesday morning at a rally outside Chicago Police Headquarters. 

"You're trying to tell me they're going to let this man go? You're telling me that? I'm not accepting that. I will not accept that. I'm going to keep going, and keep going, until we get some type of justice, because this is not fair," her grandmother said.

CBS 2 is not identifying the girl's family to protect the girl's privacy.  

As we reported Monday, police released a sketch of the man suspected in the attack and sexual abuse on the 11-year-old girl. 


Around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the girl was dragged into an alley behind the 6200 block of South Indiana Avenue and sexually abused on her way home from school along a Safe Passage route.

The girl was able to break free and run away, and the man fled the scene.

The sketch of the suspect quickly spread in the Washington Park neighborhood and online. At some point Monday, those in the community saw a man matching the description and confronted him.

They held him down, and then gave a FaceTime call to the child's mother – who snapped a screenshot and then sent it to girl's grandmother, who was with the girl herself.

The girl's grandmother said her granddaughter had no doubt that the man she saw in the screenshot was the man who attacked her. 

"She started shaking real bad, started crying, saying: 'That's him! That's him!' We had to hold her, because she was shaking real bad, so I knew she knew what she was talking about," the girl's grandmother said on Monday. "She said she'll never forget that face, ever."

But because the child was shown the image, the family says police tell them the investigation might now be tainted – and the man's arrest may not stand. 

Deenihan said the girl identifying the suspect from the picture the family got of him is not the same as identifying a suspect from a photo array as part of a criminal investigation by detectives.

"The detective is working with the state's attorney's office and the family. We're going to do whatever we can in order to build the case properly, but that's obviously not a positive photo array," Deenihan said.

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller explained what that means for the case.

"When a crime victim is shown one picture of an offender, that in and of itself is tainted. It's called an unreliable identification. At the very minimum, they should see multiple pictures, multiple people in a lineup, so there's not the suggestion of, 'Hey police caught this guy, so it must be him,'" Miller said.

Miller said, just because an arrest hasn't been made yet doesn't mean an arrest won't happen down the line.

Community activist Andrew Smith said the family is demanding that Brown, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, treat the case as if the girl is their own daughter, and act urgently to charge the suspect.

Brown defended the Police Department's handling of the case.

"Really, in every case, we act as if that would be someone that we care for. We always – our detectives especially – always act with a sense of urgency," he said. "We do have a sense of urgency, but we do have to get things right. We have to do it right so that we can have the best chance of getting charges approved by the state's attorney."

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