Crystal Lake home where sexual assault of a child occurred was ‘house of horror,’ prosecutor says

Juan Cheverez found guilty on all three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault

Juan Jose Cheverez

A man accused of sexually assaulting a child “over and over” in what a McHenry County prosecutor called a “house of horror” in Crystal Lake was found guilty Wednesday of three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault.

Assistant State’s Attorney Ashur Youash told jurors at the start of the trial of Juan Cheverez that, from 2007 through 2012, Cheverez “repeatedly” sexually assaulted a girl starting when she was about 6 until she was 11.

But his attorneys denied that Cheverez ever assaulted the girl.

Cheverez, 41, who also goes by the name Audon Villalobos, was living in Iowa when he was arrested in 2022.

He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison when he’s sentenced April 24. He faces from 18 to 180 years in prison.

The jury came back with a verdict of guilty in about 2½ hours.

Cheverez’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Matthew Feda, had asked jurors in his opening statements not to “rush to judgment,” saying, “Listen to all the evidence. Be impartial, don’t be swayed by emotion. Juan did not do this. He is innocent.”

Now an adult, the person Cheverez was convicted of assaulting took the stand and described how the assaults began when she was in kindergarten and occurred when her mother was at work, sometimes before or after school.

The woman said that when she tried to fight off Cheverez, he threatened to kill her and her family if she ever told anyone about the assaults. He also told her that no one would believe her, she said.

When she tried to escape, he grabbed her and threw her back on the bed, she said.

After the assaults, which happened “too many times to count,” she felt “disgusting” and was in pain, she testified.

The assaults continued until she was in fourth grade and she told her mother that Cheverez was “touching” her.

He moved out weeks later. But at the time, her mom thought she was talking about physical abuse. When she was a junior in high school, she went to Crystal Lake police, reported the allegations and wrote a statement, she said.

Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer challenged the woman’s allegations. She pointed out inconsistencies in her stories of the assaults over the years, including what she told police versus what she told Youash in preparing for trial.

The woman began to cry as she explained that as she got older, she remembered more details and was more comfortable sharing them with prosecutors. When she was younger, she was “completely embarrassed” initially to tell police all the details, she said.

“I have no reason to lie,” the woman said.

Messer also questioned why she was not ever treated for physical injuries resulting from the “violent” sexual assaults. The woman said the assaults caused her burning and pain, and she had many urinary tract infections.

She said what Cheverez did to her was “disgusting and inhumane,” and to talk about it makes her “feel not like a human.”

She added: “I completely blocked it out when I was younger. I tried to completely erase that it ever happened.”

Later, in closing arguments, Messer likened the woman’s testimony to “a script a teenaged child has written. ... She was acting as the lead in her own script. ... It was a performance.”

On Wednesday, during closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Tyler Mikan told jurors that “predators come in all shapes and sizes, [and sometimes] it is too difficult to recognize them until it is too late.”

In response to defense attorneys questioning the timing of the allegations, Mikan referred to the expert testimony of Shannon Krueger, a sexual assault nurse examiner. Krueger said it is normal for children who have been sexually assaulted to provide more details over time as they mature, find the right words and feel they are in a safe place to do so.

In closing arguments, Mikan asserted that the woman is credible and asked jurors what she has to gain or lose by making these claims to strangers.

“She ripped those scars open all over again,” Mikan said. “She subjected herself to incredible trauma. Why? To hold him accountable.”

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