Overlooked evidence links suspect to 2006 rape

March 19, 2010 8:47:46 PM PDT
Four years after the crime, charges have been filed against a man accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.

The evidence was discovered in a mold-covered sexual assault kit that was in storage at the Ford Heights Police Department.

The suspect has been in jail for another crime and was just days away from being released when investigators linked him to the rape.

Police are now looking at whether he may have committed other assaults.

Sheriff's investigators are also looking at the actions or lack of action by the now defunct Ford Heights Police Department.

Over the last couple years, the sheriff's office has taken over policing in Ford Heights, an impoverished community that essentially dissolved its police department for lack of money.

Last year, sheriff's investigators found dozens of un-inventoried guns and narcotics in the Ford Heights Police Department evidence room. And they also found seven rape kits in an unplugged refrigerator. One of those kits revealed a DNA match in an alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in 2006. Yet, Ford Heights police charged no one.

"What happened to this case? And why is it this was allowed to linger? And we don't have good answers right now," said Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff.

With the DNA match as their key evidence, sheriff's investigators this week charged 27-year-old Marquis Deering with the 2006 rape. Deering is currently in prison on a vehicular hijacking conviction. He was scheduled for release in six days.

"I think she's making it up," said Andrea Hooks, Deering's cousin. Deering's relatives are furious. They contend, as does Deering, that there was never any rape, and that quite likely is what Ford Heights police concluded four years ago.

"They questioned him. He sat up there and they asked him about the situation and they let him go," said Hooks.

The sheriff though says he's confident in the evidence and witnesses, and wants to know what Ford Heights police were doing four years ago.

"We need to find out what happened here and are their some people who should be held accountable for what they did and how they did it," said Dart.

The Ford Heights Police Department was often accused of corruption and incompetence. But whatever it did or didn't do in the 2006 rape case, the sheriff concedes it would be difficult to prove up misconduct or negligence, particularly in a department that has ceased to exist.