Jury finds Rochelle man not guilty of sexual assault of child

OREGON – After deliberating for 15 minutes Wednesday, an Ogle County jury found a Rochelle man not guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.

Marcus A. Klein, 30, was charged after prosecutors said he inappropriately touched a 3-year-old between December 2021 and October 2022, when the girl was visiting his home in Rochelle. A charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse was dismissed.

Klein had testified Wednesday morning, telling jurors that he never did anything of a sexual nature with the girl and only put ointment on her for medical reasons, which included a urinary tract infection.

Under questioning by his attorney Richard Haime, Klein said the girl’s mother, with whom he once had a relationship, made up the accusations because he moved on to another relationship.

Klein took the stand after his parents and sister testified that they never saw him inappropriately touch the child.

The prosecution called five witnesses Tuesday after the eight-man, four-woman jury was selected.

The girl testified from an adjacent courtroom Tuesday, answering questions from Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Voss and Haime.

The girl said she understood why she was in court and gave brief responses to questions as she held a stuffed animal.

Prosecutors requested that the child, who is now 5, be allowed to testify remotely so as not to be intimidated by seeing Klein in court. Haime objected, but Judge John Redington allowed her to testify via a video link alongside victim advocates in the adjacent courtroom.

The girl’s mother testified that in December 2022, she saw the girl touching herself in a manner that prompted her to take her to Shining Star Children’s Advocacy Center in Dixon, where the child was interviewed.

When Haime asked whether she had “made up” the accusation against Klein, the mother replied, “Absolutely not.”

She agreed with Haime’s characterization of her relationship with Klein as “tumultuous.” She and Klein also admitted to sending several heated text messages to each other, some of which were entered into evidence by the defense.

Shannon Krueger, a nurse practitioner with the Medical Evaluation Response Initiative Team in Rockford, said she examined the girl in December 2022, when her mother brought her in to be evaluated.

The team, operated by the University of Illinois College of Medicine, provides specialized, pediatric expert medical exams in a child-friendly atmosphere to suspected victims of child abuse and neglect.

Krueger said the girl told her that Klein had touched her, and then she wanted her mother to return to the room.

Kindra Short, a former child forensic interviewer with Shining Star, said she interviewed the girl without her mom in the room, and the child also told her that the defendant had touched her.

Short said she had the girl indicate on a drawing where the contact occurred.

The jury then watched a 30-minute recording of the girl’s interview with Short.

When a child makes an allegation of physical or sexual abuse, Shining Star conducts forensic interviews in an “age-appropriate manner while utilizing trauma-informed techniques to ensure trauma is not endured by the child,” according to the organization’s website.

Short said that the interview technique allows children to tell their stories in a way that is comfortable for them. When a forensic interview is conducted, a team of professionals including Department of Children and Family Services investigators, law enforcement and prosecutors is available to watch the interview through a monitor in a separate room.

In their closing arguments to jurors, prosecutors characterized Klein’s contact with the girl as “more than a wipe.”

“This was something different. It wasn’t to put on ointment,” Voss said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten asked jurors to use common sense and take into account the age of the girl when considering her testimony.

“She was not coached,” Leisten said. “There is no way a 3-year-old can maintain a motive for her mother.”

Haime told jurors that the state failed to prove the allegations against Klein and said that the accusations were a result of “malicious parent syndrome” manufactured by the girl’s mother, who “hated” Klein.

“There is no evidence – none,” Haime said. “It is impossible to prove what didn’t happen. It is your duty to come back and acquit Mr. Klein.”

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.