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Ill. Police Sergeant Charged With 4 Rapes

July 15, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) _ The rape reports were scattered over more than two years, but the four women’s accounts were similar _ a man entered their home while they were alone and threatened them with a weapon, either a gun or a knife.

In one case, the attacker told the woman he had been watching her. In another, he threatened the woman’s family and recited their address to her.

FBI profilers agreed there were enough similarities to suspect a single person might be responsible. On Friday, a Bloomington Police Department sergeant with 17 years of service was charged in the crimes.

Jeffrey Scott Pelo faces two counts of home invasion and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault just two days after he was indicted on charges of stalking a woman who said she found him lurking outside her home late at night.

Pelo was in court for a hearing on the indictment Friday when he was arrested on the new, more serious charges. He did not speak during the brief hearing before Associate Judge Rebecca Foley, who set bond at $2 million. His wife left without comment, escorted by courthouse security. But reached late Friday, Pelo’s mother-in-law said family members are standing by him.

``I don’t have anything to say _ except that he’s innocent,″ said Sandra Benecke.

According to the charges, the rapes took place on Dec. 18, 2002; April 4, 2003; Jan. 4, 2005; and Jan. 26, 2005. Pelo, 41, was charged with home invasion in the 2005 rapes.

``Our detectives have had these cases as they’ve been coming in,″ Bloomington police spokesman Dave White said Friday. ``They started trying to put the pieces together and they said, `These look similar.‴

But the various pieces began to fit after another police officer saw Pelo near the home of a woman who called to report a prowler.

Pelo, who was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts, was let go about 12:30 a.m. on June 10 after telling the officer he was out looking for a home for his mother-in-law. He was arrested later that day on suspicion of residential burglary.

Days later prosecutors added a charge of aggravated stalking to the attempted burglary charge, saying he had stalked the woman at least twice before, in April.

That woman apparently met Pelo last year when she went to the police department to file a report. Pelo was desk sergeant at the time and approved the report, which included the woman’s name, address, work telephone number and other information, according to prosecutors.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Messman said in court that two of the rape victims had positively identified Pelo as their attacker in a photographic lineup and had identified his voice. He also said investigators found a mask, pry bar and other items in his home that appeared to have been used in at least one of the assaults.

Pelo’s attorney, Steve Skelton, said he is certain his client is innocent.

``The viability of the identifications is something that’s going to have to be examined extremely closely,″ Skelton, told reporters after the hearing. ``All you folks have to do is go to your archives and find out how many times my client’s picture has been in the media.″

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