Nelson man charged with repeated sexual assault of 14-year-old girl

Robert J. Gage

DIXON – A Nelson man convicted of a violent assault on a baby in 2017 now also is facing sexual assault charges related to accusations involving repeated sexual assault to a physically disabled 14-year-old girl while her parents and siblings slept nearby.

Robert J. Gage, 27, a Prophetstown native, is charged in Lee County court with aggravated criminal sexual assault of a disabled child, which is punishable by at least six to 30 years in prison; aggravated sexual abuse of a child 13 to 17 years old with the use of force, punishable by four to 15 years; and aggravated sexual abuse of a child 13 to 17 years old, punishable by three to seven years.

If convicted of the third charge, however, the term would match a five-year battery of a child sentence levied in Whiteside County in 2017, court records show. In that case, Gage was convicted of slamming a 1-month-old child against a wall April 12, 2017, causing the baby to lose consciousness.

In that case, Gage was charged with aggravated battery of a child younger than 13, punishable by six to 30 years, and two other felonies; he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated battery and in addition to the five-year sentence was required to register as a violent offender against youth.

According to court records filed in the most recent case, the sexual assaults took place from winter 2021 to spring 2022 while Gage was on parole for the child battery.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Gage was paroled July 13, 2021, from Sheridan Correctional Center, where he was serving two concurrent, five-year terms for the child battery and for burglary in Whiteside County.

He now also is charged in Lee County with failure to register as a violent offender. That charge is punishable by two to five years.

Gage was arrested Tuesday after a Lee County Sheriff’s Department investigation that began July 26. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by investigators to justify the charges, the girl was interviewed at Shining Star Children’s Advocacy Center in Dixon after a visit to Morrison Community Hospital revealed some troubling behavior.

During the interview, she said that from November through March 25, Gage would take her outside to her father’s SUV and force her to have sex with him in the back “almost every day” while the rest of the household slept. Gage allegedly would force her to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana beforehand, according to the court records.

The girl said Gage threatened retribution against a family member if she ever told anyone.

DNA evidence found in the SUV corroborates her disclosure, according to the affidavit.

Another man told investigators on the day Gage was arrested that he once heard the girl being assaulted in the room above his basement bedroom, according to the affidavit. He also told investigators that she told him about assaults that took place in the SUV, the home and in nearby woods, according to the affidavit.

He said he also knew Gage had given the girl marijuana and alcohol, according to the affidavit.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.