Home / Articles / Features / Feature / Predator
Print this Article
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005 03:27 pm


Michael Redpath is a danger to women and children. Why does he keep getting breaks?

If you lived in Riverton a decade ago, you might remember her.

She was the woman who walked through the neighborhood every day for more than a year. She was fat. Gradually the pounds came off until, at last, she became a woman who turned heads. After marrying young and spending her entire adult life as a stay-at-home daycare provider, Constance Steinhoff was 31, gorgeous, and ready for the world.

“I would see these women get up and go to work, driving off in their cars every morning to offices, wearing nice clothes,” she recalls. “I wanted to be one of those women.”

She landed a clerical job at the Illinois Health Care Association. She separated from her husband, whom she would eventually divorce. She had an affair with a married man. It’s remarkable, today, how upfront she is about everything, sitting in the dining room of her home near Rockford, flanked by her 23-year-old daughter and her second husband, whom she married eight years ago. For four hours, she holds nothing back. She cries only twice.

The rage? That surfaces in staccato, her voice all of a sudden rising to near-shouts as she recalls what her attacker — and the system — did to her. These moments are over as quickly as they begin. She tells you that she doesn’t want to do the victim thing. But she is a victim. That seems obvious from the way she keeps digging her fingernails into her palms. 

She is no longer pretty. All of the weight she worked so hard to lose is back. She long ago quit her job and is once again a homemaker. Venturing from the safety of her house is difficult. She sometimes abandons shopping carts in stores after a few minutes and rushes home. She says that she’s scared whenever she comes back to Springfield, where she was born and raised. She could have sued him — at least one lawyer told her that she had a good case and offered to take it. But Steinhoff wants something more precious than money. After all this time, she wants justice.

Constance Steinhoff is the first known victim of 45-year-old Michael A. Redpath, a man with connections. Chuck Redpath, a brother, is a longtime Springfield alderman. Louis Redpath, another brother, is a former Springfield police officer who retired in 2001. Donald Redpath, his father, was a Springfield assistant police chief who became chief of the Springfield Park District police department. His passing three years ago merited a resolution expressing condolences from the Illinois Legislature. Earl Redpath, a brother, is a supervisor at City Water, Light & Power. His sister Karen Becker and her husband, Bill, have run the Friend in-Deed Christmas charity program for years.

The family’s ties to law enforcement run deep. Chuck Redpath, the brother who sits on the City Council, was deputy chief of investigations at the Illinois attorney general’s office until he resigned in 2003 to become deputy chief of conservation police at the state Department of Natural Resources, a position he left in October so that he could run for state representative (the law doesn’t allow employees in that post to run for partisan political office).

For more than a decade, Michael Redpath also drew his paycheck from public coffers, despite a criminal history that would almost certainly close doors to someone without hookups. Since 1984, he’s been charged with four assaults and been a suspect in at least two more. He’s been arrested for driving under the influence at least four times since 1993. His rap sheet is a litany of case dismissals, no charges filed, and sundry wrist slaps.

Redpath started working for the city of Springfield in 1985. By 1997, he was a manager in the Department of Public Works. It didn’t seem to matter what he did while he was off duty. In 1993, he was arrested twice for DUI within a 10-day period. Each time, he refused to give a breath test, which should have resulted in an automatic license suspension of at least six months. But Redpath kept his job with the city, for which he drove heavy equipment and other city-owned vehicles.

 As his criminal activity escalated, Redpath left the city’s employ, but he soon got back on the public payroll with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Time and again, Redpath has skated, no matter whom he has hurt. In 1987, for instance, he was charged with resisting, obstructing, and assault after allegedly punching a Sangamon County sheriff’s deputy at a Southern View bar. With the approval of Leo Zappa, then an assistant state’s attorney and now a judge, he was allowed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and fined $100.

Misdemeanor assault charges were dismissed in 1984 after a witness failed to appear in court. In 1997, a casual acquaintance whom Redpath barely knew told Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies that Redpath sucker-punched him after the two got into an argument at a Springfield bar. The bartender, who saw the whole thing, told deputies that Redpath punched the man again, then ran away, when she 86’ed him. No charges were filed, even though Redpath was on probation for aggravated assault. In 2001, Redpath was a suspect in a domestic-battery case involving a girlfriend. Again, no charges were filed.

In 1993, Redpath’s ex-wife obtained an order of protection after he showed up at her house and began kicking in doors and windows. The marriage lasted about a year before the two separated, according to Helen Goulden, his ex-wife’s mother. Goulden would not help Illinois Times locate or contact her daughter, who thought that she would be able to change Redpath when she married him.

“He was just wild,” says Goulden, adding that her daughter has moved from Springfield and that she tries not discuss Redpath with her because she gets upset. “Thank God, he’s a part of her past. She was afraid of him, yes.”

Last month, prosecutors in Logan County dismissed DUI and speeding charges stemming from a February arrest, although Redpath did plead guilty to driving with a suspended license. Timothy Huyett, Logan County state’s attorney, explains that Redpath has agreed to a 20-day sentence. Yes, a DUI conviction is certainly more serious than a suspended-license infraction, Huyett allows, but there were “problems” with the DUI citation that prevented prosecutors from being more aggressive.

“We just didn’t have a quality case, let me put it that way,” Huyett says. He adds that when his office cut the deal, his staff didn’t know about Redpath’s prior DUIs in Sangamon County because, somehow, the court record didn’t make it onto the Secretary of State’s database that prosecutors use to determine whether a defendant has prior offenses.

“We probably would have asked for more time [if we’d known],” Huyett says.

At the time of his drunken-driving arrest in Logan County, Redpath was on probation for a DUI in Cass County, where prosecutors aren’t commenting. The Cass County state’s attorney’s office has moved to revoke Redpath’s probation — Huyett says Redpath has worked out a deal to serve 10 days there — but so far nothing has happened. Huyett isn’t quite sure when Redpath will serve time for his escapades behind the wheel. If all goes as his victims hope, he’ll soon be in prison — but probably not for very long.

"He's harmless"

He seemed weird, but her friend assured Steinhoff that Michael Redpath was an OK guy.

“He was one of those macho guys who repulses you — a Fonzie,” Steinhoff says  She first saw him at King Pin Lanes, where she used to eat breakfast and do crossword puzzles with a co-worker who urged her to get out of the house and live a little.

Redpath would sit within view of the two, glancing over his newspaper and winking, she says. “He was gawking at me and eyeing me and eyeing me and eyeing me,” Steinhoff says. “I said, ‘He’s kind of scary.’ She said, ‘Oh God, no. That’s Mikey. He’s harmless.’ ”

One morning, Steinhoff recalls, Redpath walked into the bowling alley and asked her friend whether she’d told Steinhoff something. As he walked off, her friend told her: “ ‘He told me to tell you he loves you,’ ” Steinhoff says. “I don’t even know him.”

That soon changed.

One night, Steinhoff finally took her friend’s advice and went out instead of staying home with her kids. She says that she and her friend and her friend’s boyfriend went out to a bar, Frannie’s, near the fairgrounds. “Mike Redpath was there,” she recalls. “That’s where I found out his name. The Redpath name seemed familiar to me. Everyone was talking to him. I trusted him at the bar.”

Steinhoff would later tell police that while she drank two beers, Redpath downed a succession of Seven-and-Sevens — she believes that he drank at least five. Another person who was present also told police that Redpath was drinking one cocktail after the next. At one point, Steinhoff recalls in police reports and an interview with Illinois Times, the group’s conversation turned sexual. “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a slave?” Redpath said. “I would rather be a slave, the submissive one,” Steinhoff replied. It was all innocent talk, she says today, the sort of banter adults sometimes engage in while having a few drinks and certainly not a green light.

About 8:30 p.m., Redpath said that he was feeling dizzy and wanted to get something to eat. Steinhoff agreed to go with him to another bar for dinner. When he saw her minivan, he said that he was thinking of buying one just like it — would she let him drive it and see how it handled? That’s how he got the keys.

Before they were even out of the parking lot, Steinhoff says, Redpath grabbed her by the hair, forced her face into his lap, and ordered her to perform a sexual act. He demanded that she tell him where she lived. He was slapping her in the face, pulling her hair. “He was laughing his ass off,” she recalls. “At this point, I thought, ‘This son of a bitch is going to kill me.’ ”

Steinhoff says that she gave him directions to her estranged husband’s house, but he saw through the ruse and ordered her to tell him how to get to her house in Riverton. En route, they passed by her sister’s home. Steinhoff spotted her sister standing on her porch and saw a chance. She grabbed for the steering wheel and honked the horn. Kathy Davis-Walbert, Steinhoff’s sister, would later tell police the van was traveling “like a bat out of hell” and that she saw a man pushing Steinhoff away from the steering wheel. “It was very weird that she’d drive by the house without stopping,” Davis-Walbert tells Illinois Times. I thought, ‘Is she acting crazy, or what the hell’s going on?’ ”

Davis-Walbert was concerned enough that she called her sister to ask what was going on. She got no answer. By then, Redpath was raping Steinhoff, who listened helplessly as her sister left a message on the answering machine. Redpath was careful, Steinhoff told police. He made sure that all of the doors to the house were locked before attacking her. He never penetrated her but forced her to perform oral sex and penetrate him with a sexual aid she kept in her closet. He also shoved the device in her mouth.

“I thought I was dying and almost passed out,” she says. “To this day, I haven’t been able to talk about some of the things he did to me.” Several times he slapped her and blamed her for his failure to achieve orgasm. Midway through the rape, he noticed a photograph of Steinhoff’s daughter and said that he wanted to have sex with her. Getting raped was bad enough, but this was awful beyond words — her daughter was 3 when the photo was taken.

Steinhoff cursed him and tried breaking away, which only heightened his rage. He slapped her repeatedly until she told him what he wanted to hear: “He made me say what it would be like to have sex with my daughter.”

After climaxing on her face, Redpath picked up a phone, dialed a number and ordered her to say sexually explicit things to the person on the other end of the line, Steinhoff says. A Springfield recreation supervisor who received the call and let a friend listen in told police that Steinhoff was laughing and seemed at ease. The supervisor’s friend told police the same thing. Not so, insists Steinhoff.

“Whoever this man he had me call was a buddy of his,” she says. “He had to have heard Mike in the background, telling me what to say. There’s no way that man could mistake the fear in my voice.” After hanging up, they got back in her minivan and returned to Frannie’s, where she dropped Redpath off. Then she went to her sister’s house and melted down.

Her face was red, bruised, and swollen. She had a cut over her left eye and a scratch on her left knee, which was also swollen. Her hair was messed up. She was trembling. Steinhoff’s mother, who was present when she arrived, told police that her daughter was obviously in shock and walked straight into her sister’s room. Her sister immediately sensed what had happened. “You’ve been raped,” she said. “Worse,” Steinhoff answered. Then she broke down in tears.

After calming down a bit, Steinhoff and her sister drove to a restaurant and talked. Her sister urged her to go to a hospital and call police, but Steinhoff was hesitant. She knew that she had been violated, but she was also blaming herself. If only she hadn’t gone to a bar, if she hadn’t allowed herself to be alone with a man she barely knew — why had she made that remark about being submissive?

“Getting into my own car with him somehow made me feel responsible,” she says. “I also had this guilt from the way I was raised. When my mom found out, that was her first statement: ‘What in the hell were you doing in a bar?’ ” After leaving her sister, she went back to her house and stayed up all night, thinking. Finally, she reached a conclusion: “It doesn’t matter what I agreed to — he had no business holding me hostage by my hair and hitting me and making me do stuff.” And so she called the police.

At first, Steinhoff felt that she’d done the right thing. Riverton police officer Karen Stone, she says, seemed like the sort of person to whom she could open up. But Stone, who declined an interview request from Illinois Times, was soon off the case, replaced by Riverton Police Chief Craig Bangert, who is now a sergeant in the Sherman Police Department. “I felt more comfortable talking to a woman,” Steinhoff says. “All of a sudden, Mr. Bangert is knocking on my door. I felt embarrassed talking to him.”

In retrospect, Steinhoff believes that the case was botched almost from the beginning. For one thing, she says, police didn’t take photographs of her physical injuries, which were described in Stone’s initial report and medical records (no photographs were included in the case file when the Riverton police responded to an Illinois Times Freedom of Information request). For another, investigators waited 10 months before contacting Steinhoff’s sister and mother, the first people who spoke with her after the assault. The police reports are filled with grammatical errors and incomplete sentences. Some pages appear to be missing from the reports provided to Illinois Times by the Riverton Police Department. There are no documents chronicling any interviews with Redpath.

At one point, Steinhoff says, she made a written statement describing what Redpath did to her. When she requested a copy of the case file from Riverton police less than a year after the assault, the statement wasn’t in it, she says. No written statement from Steinhoff was included in the documents Riverton police provided to Illinois Times. Bangert took the unusual step of asking Steinhoff to submit to a polygraph examination less than a month after the assault. Steinhoff says that the chief picked her up from work and drove her to Illinois State Police offices to take the lie-detector test. On the way there, she says, he told her that Redpath would also be in the building but that she wouldn’t likely see him. “As I look back, I realize I was being intimidated,” she says. “It was all being done to make me feel scared to death to go any further.”

She passed the test, with the examiner concluding that she was telling the truth when she said that Redpath forced her to have sex against her will and that she submitted because she was afraid of him. Redpath failed a polygraph. “It should be noted that there was also indications of purposeful non-cooperation by acts of controlled breathing and muscular movements on this subject’s polygraph test,” the examiner wrote.

Lyn Schollett, general counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says that investigators rarely ask rape victims to take polygraphs. One reason is a state law saying that law-enforcement officials can’t require victims to take lie-detector tests as a condition of continuing an investigation, she says. The law, in effect since 1988, also says that a polygraph may only be administered at the victim’s request. “They can ask her and she can take one, but they can’t require it,” Schollett says. “I think you can make a pretty good argument that they shouldn’t be pressuring a victim.”

Steinhoff gasps when the statute is read to her. “Oh God, no,” she says. “I wish I would have known that then. It was a horrible thing to have to go through. I was very reluctant to do it — I told him I didn’t want to do it. He was very, very insistent that I do that or it would hurt my case if I didn’t. He said, ‘It gives the state’s attorney a better reason to press charges.’ I felt like I had to take it.”

Bangert told Illinois Times that he needed to review the case file before discussing the polygraph and other aspects of his investigation. He said that he would call back but never did. Steinhoff says that she received crank calls in the middle of the night from people who told her to keep her mouth shut. She says that she reported the anonymous calls to the state’s attorney’s office but that the staff didn’t seem concerned. “They had no interest in protecting me,” she says.

Rather than help build her courage up, Steinhoff says, prosecutors emphasized the ordeal she would face if she pressed charges, telling her that defense attorneys would pry into her personal life and expose it all in a courtroom. The police weren’t much better. When officers came to gather evidence, they took every sex toy she owned, not just the one used in the assault, Steinhoff says. She didn’t have a huge collection, but it was still more than any woman would want in the hands of strangers. “Why would they take those?” she asks. “They have nothing to do with this.”

Weeks went by with no arrest and no word from prosecutors or police. Then, Steinhoff says, she got a call from Kevin Davlin, a Springfield lawyer who’s the brother of Tim Davlin, now the mayor of Springfield. Kevin Davlin was dating a co-worker of Steinhoff’s, but Steinhoff says that she can’t recall any previous contact more substantive than a passing nod when Davlin happened to be in the office. She says that he introduced himself and explained that his girlfriend had told him about her ordeal.

“He had no business calling me and butting his nose in,” Steinhoff says. “He says, ‘I feel really bad and would like to help you out.’ If I wanted to drop the charges, he could get that done for me. He wanted me to sign a paper.” She rebuffed him. “I listened to people in my office who told me not to sign, that he’s not trying to help,” Steinhoff says. Karen O’Beirne, who worked with Steinhoff, recalls talking to Steinhoff about the rape and the unsolicited contact from Davlin. “I remember that she said that she had received what she considered a threatening letter from Kevin, the attorney, or something like that,” O’Beirne says. “She felt frightened. She felt threatened. She felt helpless.”

Shortly afterward, Steinhoff says, she again encountered Davlin, this time at an evening reception sponsored by the health-care association. “He says, ‘So, whatever happened?’ ” Steinhoff recalls. “I told him, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘I’m sure you probably want this out of your life.’ I said, ‘Sure, I definitely want this out of my  life.’ ”

More time passed without Redpath being charged or arrested. So Steinhoff called the state’s attorney’s office, speaking with a lawyer whose name she can’t recall. The attorney asked her to come down to the office. When she got there, she says, prosecutors asked her whether she knew Kevin Davlin. “I said, ‘Yeah, I know of him,’ ” Steinhoff says. “So they said, ‘You don’t know him? You’re not friends with him?’ I said, ‘No. Why?’ They said, ‘This Mr. Davlin called us and told us you wanted to drop charges and didn’t want to pursue this.’
“I was freaked out. I said, ‘Why would you take this information from someone other than me? I did not say I wanted to drop charges.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want this dropped.’ They said, ‘Why would he call and say that then? Why would he talk on your behalf?’”

Davlin will neither confirm nor deny Steinhoff’s account of his involvement in her case. He does say, however, that Redpath — not Steinhoff — was once a client. “First of all, anything involving Michael Redpath is so long ago, I can’t recall,” Davlin says. “Anything I did for Mike Redpath or on his behalf would be protected by attorney-client privilege. I’m not trying to be an obstructionist. Attorney-client privilege is exactly that.”

Steinhoff says that she had the impression that Davlin was working on behalf of her accused rapist, but she’s certain that Davlin never told her so. “He did not tell me he represented Redpath — I know that like I know my name,” she says. Steinhoff doesn’t remember the names of all the lawyers she dealt with at the state’s attorney’s office, but she does remember meeting with Patrick Kelley, then the elected state’s attorney and now a Circuit Court judge. She says that she met with Kelley more than once to ask why no charges had been brought. Kelley says that he doesn’t recall the case.

Steinhoff also remembers speaking with a prosecutor named Jay about the case. “That would be me,” says assistant state’s attorney Jay Magnuson. “I think I met with Connie once or twice.” Magnuson, who started working in Sangamon County in January 1996, recalls that prosecutors had already decided not to file charges when he was asked to take another look at the case. He says that he doesn’t recall Davlin’s interjecting himself into the case — indeed, Magnuson says, he’d never heard the name until Tim Davlin ran for mayor in 2003.

“We didn’t think we had enough to prove the case,” Magnuson says. “He asked her about sex toys, and she told him where they were. She dropped him off [after the assault] and waves to him as he leaves. I don’t think there was a prompt outcry. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is tough.”

Steinhoff wasn’t pleased. Citing Redpath’s interest in her daughter, she warned prosecutors  that more crimes were in the offing if Redpath wasn’t stopped. “I told the state’s attorney I feared he was a sick child molester,” she recalls. He words proved prophetic.

A plea bargain

Twelve-year-old Barbara Black was walking home from school in February 1996 when a man parked in an alley called out, beckoning her to his cream-colored sedan with a Springfield city logo on the door. Nine years later, her memory is vivid.

“I walked over to the driver’s side of the car,” Black recalls of the encounter, which took place at the intersection of 14th Street and South Grand Avenue. “He asked me if I wanted to go to a party with him. I remember seeing yellow gloves inside the car, like dishwashing gloves. I was standing right next to him. He was fairly friendly. He grabbed my coat. I probably yanked a couple of times. I got loose, and I took off running. I ran all the way home, a couple of blocks away. He followed me. He even circled my house.”

Under Illinois law, trying to lure a child into a car qualifies as felony child abduction, even if the victim gets away. Besides describing the car to police, Black picked Redpath out of a photo lineup. This wasn’t just a he-said-she-said with no witnesses. Her brother got a good look at the car as it cruised past the family’s home. 

Though he ultimately couldn’t pick Redpath out of a photo lineup, his general description matched: white man in his thirties with a chubby face. Eight months after Steinhoff was attacked, Redpath was in trouble again. The case landed on the desk of Tim Young, then a detective and now a sergeant who supervises detectives in the Springfield police department.

Young’s reports are the antithesis of the investigation conducted by his counterparts in Riverton, who still hadn’t gotten around to interviewing Steinhoff’s mother or sister when Black encountered Redpath. He investigated promptly and thoroughly, confirming that the city’s public-works department had just four cars matching the description given by Black and her brother. Furthermore, Redpath was the only employee assigned to those cars who looked like the man seen by Black and her brother.

Three weeks after Black first spoke with police, prosecutors charged Redpath with felony child abduction. Redpath, who denied any encounter with Black, seemed to hint at his connections near the end of his hour-long interview with Young, who asked whether he had anything to add. “He stated that he was going to talk with his family and if he recalled anything else, he would call us back.” Young wrote.

Nearly 10 years later, Young says that if Redpath was trying to intimidate him, it wouldn’t have worked. “I knew the family name,” Young says. “I knew what I was up against when I went over there.” The sergeant doesn’t hesitate when asked whether he believes that Redpath was guilty. “Of course — that goes without saying,” he answers. “I’m not going to file charges against someone otherwise. It’s got to be beyond a reasonable doubt in my mind.”

The case made headlines and caused a minor sensation, in part because the city, while charges were pending against Redpath, fired an African-American police officer accused of having sex with a prostitute and upheld the termination after the officer was acquitted of criminal charges. Redpath, however, stayed on the city’s payroll, although he was transferred from his position as a manager in the public-works department and given a maintenance job in the fire department, with no cut in pay.

Steinhoff says that prosecutors told her that they would use her rape allegation as leverage against Redpath in the Black abduction case. If so, the lever proved weak. Prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain, allowing Redpath to plead guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault. Redpath would not be required to register as a sex offender. The system would treat him as a first-time offender if he committed a sex crime in the future. And he wouldn’t spend much time in jail: Had he been convicted of child abduction, he’d have faced at least a year in prison; instead, he got 180 days of work release in the county jail.

In telling the State Journal-Register about the deal, Schmidt, then first assistant state’s attorney, said that Black’s family agreed to it. Eight years later, Schmidt, who personally handled the Black case, says he “vaguely” recalls it. “As we evaluated the case, we didn’t have any physical evidence, and no eyewitness evidence,” he says, notwithstanding the fact that Black’s brother saw Redpath’s car. “We ran a risk that he would face no consequences for his conduct. He could be acquitted. That was not an acceptable option.”

John Sharp, Redpath’s lawyer at the time, suggests that Black’s story changed after police finished their investigation. “It was a situation where the young lady had made a couple of different statements,” Sharp says. “There were some problems that didn’t necessarily support everything that was contained in what the [police] reports were saying. It’s one of those things that, if there had been a substantial likelihood of the state being able to secure a conviction on that felony charge, there would not have been a reduction.”

If anything, Sharp says, Redpath’s name would have worked against him: “If they have a situation where they have someone with a prominent name or a prominent background, they look at those cases and want to make sure there’s nothing that people could look back at and say, ‘You could have done this’ or ‘You could have done that.’ ”

Black says that no one ever told her how the case ended. Her father says that he has no memory of the case or why the plea bargain was acceptable. Her stepmother has died. 

Redpath resigned from his city job a few days after taking the plea, but he stayed on work release, walking free each weekday between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., after telling the court that he had a job with a private construction company. If he did have a job, he didn’t keep it very long. Two months after Redpath pleaded guilty, the state successfully moved to revoke his work release because he wasn’t employed. At the same time, Schmidt filed a motion requiring Redpath to undergo a psychological examination and an evaluation by a drug-and-alcohol specialist. The psychologist’s report remains sealed. The drug/alcohol evaluation is cursory at best.

Redpath — at the time a 36-year-old man who’d been arrested twice for DUI four years earlier — told a case manager for TASC (a treatment-center moniker that stands for Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities) that he hadn’t been a serious drinker since he was 21. He claimed that he drank as many as three cans of beer once a week and that he had gone more than five months without drinking even that much. “TASC attempted to corroborate Mr. Redpath’s self-report with his brother, but could not do so after receiving an incorrect phone number,” wrote the case manager, who said that he based his recommendation of no treatment on what Redpath said and his legal history. The report does not indicate which brother — the police officer, the alderman, or the CWLP supervisor — could not be reached by telephone. Nor is there any indication that the counselor looked at Riverton Police Department reports outlining the Steinhoff rape investigation. In those reports, which are public records, two people, including Steinhoff, say that Redpath was drunk on whiskey the night on which she was assaulted.

Schmidt says the jail sentence, plus two years of probation, amounted to consequences. “He was under the thumb of the court and the probation officer for two years,” Schmidt says. However, he can’t explain why nothing happened to Redpath when he sucker-punched a man he barely knew less than a year after pleading guilty. “I’m unfamiliar with that,” the prosecutor says. Redpath’s career with the city ended with his conviction, but he still managed to earn a living courtesy of taxpayers. In 1999, the Illinois Department of Transportation hired him as a highway-maintenance worker at a salary of $2,629 a month. He was making $2,916 a month when he left his state job in June 2001. The state conducted a criminal-background check before hiring Redpath, a transportation-department spokesman says, but his misdemeanor conviction was not considered serious enough to keep him off the public payroll.


The Redpath name didn’t mean anything to Rita, who lives in a town that she requests not be named in this story. Illinois Times also agreed not to identify her or her daughter, who we’ll call Yvonne. Just 16 years old, she has brought Redpath to the brink of some semblance of justice. She’s paid a horrible price.

Rita, a nurse, worked with one of Redpath’s nieces, who set the two up. Redpath wasn’t much to look at — balding, short, pudgy. What he lacked in looks, though, he made up for in personality: He laughed a lot. He had a good singing voice, which he demonstrated while driving. He was a fine dancer. Yvonne, who was 10 when her mom started dating Redpath in 1999, was overcoming the recent deaths of a brother, who succumbed to cystic fibrosis, and her father, who committed suicide. Redpath, Rita says, was “just a buddy” to her children.

“He was great with kids,” Rita says. “That was a big attraction.” Redpath liked to fish, and so did Yvonne’s younger brother. “When we first met him, he was really nice,” Yvonne says. “I had just lost my brother and my dad, and here comes this guy. He was somebody we were supposed to be able to trust.”

There was always something to do. On weekends, Rita and her children would help Redpath remodel rental homes. When they weren’t pounding nails, Redpath would take Rita and her children water-skiing and camping. The relationship grew close. Before long, Rita was making the 100-mile trek from her home to Springfield on weekends and bringing her two children. He was present when Yvonne was baptized. “I wasn’t dating anybody else,” Rita says. After about six months, the relationship ended abruptly with words that will forever haunt Rita:

“He said to me, ‘I wonder what color Yvonne’s [genitalia] is. Right then, I knew he was a pervert. I grabbed my kids and got out of there.” But it was too late. She blames herself for what happened to Yvonne. “I feel like I should have protected her,” she says.

According to court documents filed by the state’s attorney’s office, Redpath had intercourse with Yvonne at least once in his bedroom. He also made her touch his penis twice, according to court documents. Sitting in a conference room at the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center, flanked by her mother, assistant state’s attorney Sheryl Essenburg and an advocate for sexual-assault victims, Yvonne refuses to elaborate, except to say that Redpath violated her near the end of his relationship with her mother. “I don’t want to go into detail with you,” she says. “He said, ‘Don’t tell nobody.’ He’s a big man. I’m a little girl. What am I supposed to do?”

The assaults remained secret until 2003, when Rita found a letter Yvonne had written to a boyfriend that revealed what Redpath had done to her. By then, Redpath had hurt someone else, according to prosecutors and police reports. It happened in June 2001. Doreen (a pseudonym to protect the identity of her daughter, who has the same last name) says that she chanced across Redpath while she and her children were packing up a car during a move between residences. She’d once dated him for a few months but hadn’t seen him for a long time. They decided to take her two daughters to Dairy Queen for ice cream. But first, Redpath said, he had to stop by his house to grab some papers. Doreen’s 5-year-old daughter — call her Crystal — accompanied him inside while the others waited in Redpath’s truck.

Several minutes passed. Crystal’s 9-year-old sister tried going inside the house to see what was taking so long. She later told police that both the front and back doors were locked. When she tried the front door a second time, she told officers, it was unlocked. She found Redpath and her sister in the kitchen. He had just given her a piece of cherry licorice. Once home and away from Redpath, Doreen says, her daughter told her that Redpath had made her close her eyes, then put his penis in her mouth.

Doreen immediately called Springfield police, and Crystal repeated her story to officers. In a report submitted to prosecutors, police wrote it up as predatory criminal sexual assault, indicating that an adult had sexually penetrated a child. Under state law, anyone found guilty of this crime must serve at least six years in prison. But prosecutors filed no charges.

Essenburg says that she reviewed the case and determined that the accusations could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. With no witnesses or physical evidence, it came down to a child’s word against Redpath’s, and that just wasn’t enough, the assistant state’s attorney says. “That’s the difficulty of child sexual abuse,” she says. “All you have is what this child can tell you. That makes it a very tough case.”

Two years later, along came Yvonne, whose case came to light after she and her mother spoke to a counselor, who was bound by statute to notify law enforcement. “This was a much stronger case,” Essenburg says. “[Yvonne] was young, but she was considerably older [than Crystal] and able to give a clearer accounting.”

This time, prosecutors filed charges of predatory criminal sexual assault, one in Yvonne’s case and one in Crystal’s. The state’s attorney’s office also filed two counts of criminal sexual abuse. Bail was set at $250,000. Karen Becker, one of Redpath’s sisters, paid his bond. “I have no comment,” Becker tells Illinois Times.

Filing charges is one thing; proving them quite another. Rather than push the criminal charges, Essenburg filed a civil petition asking a judge to declare Redpath a sexually dangerous person. By doing so, she could introduce evidence beyond the accusations in Crystal’s and Yvonne’s cases. And she did, citing Redpath’s statement during the alleged 1995 attack that he wanted to have sex with Steinhoff’s daughter. Under state law, a person declared sexually dangerous by a judge or jury is indefinitely confined by the state Department of Corrections. Only after a judge or jury declares that the person is no longer dangerous may he or she be set free. In theory, at least, Redpath was facing decades behind bars.

It took several months for psychiatrists to examine Redpath and render opinions that could be offered as proof that he needed to be locked up. While the petition was pending, a woman whom Redpath hired to clean his house called police in November 2003. Redpath, the woman reported, asked her how she would like to be paid, then grinned and began rubbing his crotch. Police categorized the report as disorderly conduct. No charges were filed. Essenburg says that she learned about that report from Illinois Times. Had she known about it, she says, she likely would have included it in her petition to have Redpath declared sexually dangerous.

Essenburg says that four psychiatrists examined Redpath. (Court files, however, reflect three examinations.) Just one doctor found that Redpath met the legal standard for being sexually dangerous. All but one of the reports issued by the psychiatrists are sealed. Dr. Robert E. Chapman, who authored the only report that is open — it was filed in court by the defendant’s lawyers — said that Redpath’s explanations for the attacks on Steinhoff and Yvonne were “self-serving.” In Steinhoff’s case, Chapman wrote, Redpath said that she had lied and that his explanation was “demeaning to the woman’s moral behavior.” After speaking with Redpath for two hours in May 2004, the doctor opined that he was not a sexually dangerous person.

With only one psychiatrist saying that Redpath was dangerous, it was back to the criminal charges. Had he been convicted on all counts, Redpath could have been sent to prison for more than 60 years. But prosecutors balked. “What I tell victims is, going to trial is taking a chance,” Essenburg says. “You cannot guarantee what 12 people will do. Sometimes you decide to go for something definite rather than take a chance on something where you can’t predict the outcome.” And so she and Redpath’s lawyers made a deal: In September, Redpath pleaded guilty to criminal sexual abuse for fondling Yvonne, with the state’s attorney’s office recommending a sentence no longer than three years. The maximum is six. The remaining charges were dismissed. Sentencing is set for Dec. 14 in the courtroom of Judge Robert J. Eggers.

“That, in my opinion, was the best terms we could get for a plea — it was that or we go to trial,” Essenburg says. Though she played no role in the Black and Steinhoff cases, Essenburg insists that Redpath has never gotten special treatment from her colleagues. “I can tell you without any hesitation that who he is had nothing to do with the way these cases were handled,” she says. “These cases were decided on the evidence that was available at the time,” she says. Yvonne and her mother aren’t so sure, but they have nothing but praise for the way in which Essenburg has handled their case.

“I’m sure the Redpath name had an effect on the other cases, but not this one,” Rita says. “I’m sure, up until this time, that the Redpath name got him tons of favors. Sheryl has done an absolutely wonderful job. She’s looked at this from every angle. She’s done what she could with the evidence that was there.”

Yvonne says that she was willing to testify but was relieved to learn that she wouldn’t have to take the stand. “I think it’s the best way to go,” she says. Like her mother, Yvonne doesn’t believe that Redpath got any breaks in her case or that his family helped him behind the scenes. “If they had such influence, they would have brought it down to nothing,” she says. “This is, by far, not the least he could get.”

What Redpath did to her has left her traumatized but not afraid of him, Yvonne says. That’s one reason she and her mother plan to attend his sentencing. “I want him to know we’re not scared of him,” she says. Yvonne puts up a brave front for a 16-year-old girl with one foot in childhood, the other in a world none of us wants to live in. She can’t sleep in the dark — her bedroom door must be open that so a hallway light can keep her feeling safe, and her bedroom is set up so that she can easily see the door. She is fast growing into an attractive woman, but, she says, it’s hard for her to trust men, and she doesn’t think she’ll ever put the rapes behind her. “It’s not going to go away,” she says. “It’s going to be with me forever.”

At one point, Yvonne downplays the aftereffects, but her mother jumps in, running down the list of problems her daughter has weathered: severe depression, self-mutilation, post traumatic stress disorder, two suicide attempts, two stays in a mental hospital, a year spent in a residential home, leaving high school to attend night classes for adults because she’s never really been a teenager and never will be. How much of this is attributable to Redpath? “All of it,” Rita answers, her voice tinged equally with anger and sadness.

After a brief silence, her daughter opens up a bit. Yvonne talks about how Redpath took advantage of her when she was vulnerable, still grieving the deaths of her father and brother, and how she’s afraid to venture outside her house at night. “You shouldn’t be scared of being in your own neighborhood,” she says. And she corrects a reporter who is asking questions no teenager should ever have to face. “It’s not ‘Mr. Redpath,’ ” she says. “It’s ‘Redpath.’ ”

It’s early November, and Michael Redpath is in Cass County Circuit Court for a status conference on the state’s attorney’s petition to revoke his probation for a DUI conviction. The state moved to revoke probation in July, five months after Redpath was arrested for DUI in Logan County. As he waits for his case to be called, a woman talking with someone on a hallway bench happens to mention a girl with the same name as Rita’s daughter, saying, “she just turned 12.” Redpath instantly swings his gaze in her direction. Then he ambles over to a Cass County sheriff’s deputy, shakes his hand, and starts chatting, as if he were a friend. After a few minutes, Redpath strolls away and stands alone against a wall.

Suddenly an Illinois Times journalist 10 feet away pulls out a camera and takes his picture for this story. Redpath stares straight ahead for a few seconds, as if in disbelief. Then he walks back to the deputy and stands behind him, partially blocking the journalist’s view and enough to prevent another snapshot. Redpath doesn’t talk to anyone now — he just stands there, looking grim. When his case is called, Redpath and his attorney walk down a hallway toward a conference room where court is being held, with the journalist trailing just a few steps behind. Redpath mutters an obscenity to his lawyer — something about punching someone. When he reaches the conference room, Redpath shuts the door — hard — in the journalist’s face, then locks it.

The conference lasts less than 10 minutes. An assistant state’s attorney agrees to postpone any action on the probation-revocation petition until after Redpath is sentenced for the felony matter in Sangamon County. No one says just what the felony involves, and the judge doesn’t ask. Redpath sounds casual as he tells the court that sentencing day is Dec. 9, five days earlier than is the truth. Perhaps it just slipped his mind. After all, the courts have never posed a big problem for him before.
Log in to use your Facebook account with

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes


  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed