BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man was convicted Thursday of sexually abusing a teenage girl during the time the two were together over three months at his home.
The guilty verdict on three counts and an acquittal of a fourth charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse was returned by Judge Scott Drazewski after a four-day bench trial for 50-year-old defendant Robert Wichmann.
In his ruling, the judge singled out DNA test results as the primary reason for the verdict.
"It's the scientific evidence, the DNA, that rules the day," said Drazewski in the ruling delivered late Thursday.
Results from DNA tests on a condom found in Wichmann's bathroom supported the state's contention that the suspect and the girl engaged in sexual activity, said Drazewski.
The judge noted that "there's a lot of circumstantial evidence in this case" that could be interpreted in different ways.
Statements from the alleged victim contained inconsistencies — some of them on major points — related to when and how the purported sexual activity took place, said the judge. Other testimony, including the information provided by the teen's brother, was not believable, he said.
The relationship between Wichmann and the minor was not easily defined, the judge opined, based upon the suspect's actions such as providing food and clothing to the child, actions that were in her best interests, and his contrasting, inappropriate conduct such as buying her jewelry and making romantic overtures in text messages.
In his closing arguments Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Jacob Harlow said the teenage girl “liked being with him because they had this understanding that she got to do what she wanted.”
The DNA evidence was a key element of the state's case, said Harlow.
Defense lawyer Jennifer Patton argued the girl’s testimony as to when the sex may have occurred was inconsistent. The teen’s allegations that Wichmann cut himself when she rebuffed his sexual advances were not proved, said Patton.
“Just because it’s weird and creepy doesn’t mean it’s criminal,” Patton said of the pairing of the adult man and troubled teenage girl.
The state played an hourlong interview of Wichmann by Bloomington Detective John Heinlen. The suspect denied having sex with the girl during the weeks he claims he was trying to help her and her mother.
In the interview, the detective described the girl as “the perfect storm ... an abused and abandoned creature” searching for love from the family friend she considered “her world, her savior.”
For the girl’s mother, Wichmann was “a godsend," said Harlow, because the suspect took over most of the day-to-day care of the girl, including buying her clothes and smoothing her rocky relationship with her mother.
State's Attorney Jason Chambers credited the Children's Advocacy Center staff and Heinlen with helping the victim's voice be heard.
"Trials can traumatize a survivor all over again and they were there to support her, along with Jake Harlow," said Chambers.
A March 9 sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wichmann.