Accused foster parent

Accused foster parent free after bond lowered

By BILL DWYER March 16, 2012 3:18PM

A River Forest man, Robert L. Gaskill, 63, who took in dozens of foster children since 1996 and volunteered with local youth groups was charged Feb. 3 with the sexual abuse of two girls. | Provided photo

A $50 million cash bond was reduced for a River Forest foster parent accused of sexually abusing two girls, and details of the 16-count indictment against him were revealed in court Friday.

Robert Gaskill, 63, is free on $250,000 bond — which required a 10 percent cash deposit — but with stipulations. He had been held in protective isolation at County Jail the past six weeks, in lieu of a $50 million full cash bond.

Judge Noreen Valeria Love rejected a no bond motion by prosecutors, siding with defense attorney Ellen Domph, who cited, among other things, Gaskill’s many friends and family.

“This is not a man who needs to be in custody pretrial,” Domph told the judge.

Gaskill will be on house arrest and electronic monitoring. He will only be allowed to leave to visit his doctor and church. Love also ordered him to stay away from any minors.

Domph told Love that Gaskill will be living in an apartment, not his River Forest home, where his wife, Mary, continues to care for several children.

The judge gave Gaskill a blunt warning.

“I want you to understand, Mr. Gaskill, the way it’s set up, if you’re at a certain (permitted) location, (the sheriff) will send an officer by that location. And if you’re not there, off to jail you’ll go.”

During the arraignment hearing, prosecutors disclosed the charges, which includes two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13, three counts of criminal sexual assault involving force and two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault.

Prosecutors said Gaskill began sexually abusing the two girls at different times. Victim 1 was 6 or 7 years old in 1996 and Victim 2 was “about 12” when the alleged abuse started in 2004.

Many of the alleged incidents reportedly occurred after Gaskill had returned home after drinking in Oak Park, prosecutors said. The acts involved “digital penetration,” as well as various inappropriate touching and kissing.

In addition, Gaskill allegedly told police in a verbal confession an hour after his arrest that he had a “biting fetish” and had the girls bite him on various parts of his body to arouse him sexually.

Prosecutors argued that the seriousness of the alleged crimes and the prepubescent ages of the victims called for Gaskill to be held on no bond.

The defense attorney called into question the girls’ motives for making the accusations, and argued that their allegation came years after their alleged abuse. One of the girl’s recollections came 14 months, not days, after she said she became concerned that another foster child in the Gaskill’s care might be in danger.

Domph also stressed that although prosecutors say Gaskill gave police a verbal confession, there is no written confession.

Any concern over Gaskill being a flight risk, Domph said, was more than balanced by his deep and wide connections to the community.

“His family ties, to put it mildly, are extraordinary,” Domph told Love.

That support system was clearly in evidence Friday morning, as more than 40 people crowded in to Love’s courtroom while a dozen others waited outside.

His next court date is April 26.