Champaign, Mahomet police investigating exposure incidents
Two area police agencies are comparing notes about similar sounding cases where a man has exposed himself to children in the past couple of months.
The Champaign and Mahomet police departments are investigating at least three such cases.
Investigators from Urbana police and the Champaign County sheriff's office said they haven't had any such reports in their jurisdictions recently but are aware of the other reports.
In all the cases, the suspect was reported to be driving a black or dark-colored four-door sedan, had his face obscured, and a cellphone in his hand, which he was apparently using to take pictures of his victims.
"The general public needs to be warned about this guy. He's not biased in age whatsoever," said Stephanie Koontz of St. Joseph, whose twin daughters were subjected to the man's unwanted advances almost two months ago, the first of the three apparently related cases.
Koontz contacted The News-Gazette after seeing another story that was published Wednesday about 5- and 6-year-old siblings who were approached June 26 outside their home in the 1400 block of Country Lake Drive in Champaign by a man under similar conditions.
From an upstairs window, their mother saw a man with a phone in his hand gesturing toward her children and yelled for her husband. That yell apparently scared the man off before anything happened to the children. However, the 6-year-old boy reported to his mother that the man was "holding himself."
While no report was taken on that incident that day, Deputy Police Chief Joe Gallo said an officer was sent back to the home to follow up and a detective has also been assigned to both cases.
The News-Gazette learned of the Country Lake Drive incident from a neighbor. Champaign police had not put out any extra releases to draw attention to that case or the one involving Koontz's daughters.
A woman from Mahomet also contacted The News-Gazette about her daughter's experience at their home on July 3, which was promptly reported to Mahomet police.
Koontz said that on May 24, about 2:30 p.m., her 14-year-old girls had gone to the Carle Clinic branch at 1813 W. Kirby Ave., in southwest Champaign with their grandmother, who had an appointment there. Because the office was cool, they went outside to warm up.
Koontz said her girls had been on a bench in front of the clinic about five minutes when a dark navy four-door car that appeared black in color pulled up at the curb right in front of where they were sitting. The girls thought the driver, later determined to be a man, was there to pick someone up.
"He had an iPhone in his hand and had it pointing toward the girls. While he had the phone in his hand, he reached down and opened his car door. He swung both feet out of the driver's side and on to the ground. He was fully exposed from the waist down," she said.
Koontz said her girls said it looked like he was recording their reaction with his phone camera.
The man had sweat pants around his ankles. His head was covered with an orange bandanna that went from his eyebrows back. He was wearing mirrored sunglasses and had a black bandanna tied around his nose and mouth. He was wearing a navy blue Illini shirt with an orange I on it, white tennis shoes, and white socks, she said.
The girls said he was white and it appeared from his physique that he was in his late 30s or 40s, Koontz said.
Koontz said as one daughter was pushing the other toward the clinic door, the man reached out to grab one of them by the arm but didn't get a grip. The girls went in the clinic and told the receptionist they needed their grandmother but was told she was in her appointment.
When their grandmother came out, they told her what happened, then returned to St. Joseph, where Koontz reported the encounter to Champaign police that same afternoon.
The Mahomet incident happened July 3 about 7:50 p.m., according to Mahomet Police Chief Mike Metzler.
Two teen-age girls were in a driveway in the 700 block of Heather Drive in the Sandy Ridge subdivision on the east side of Mahomet.
"A male described as white, 40ish, with brown hair, a white hat and sunglasses, drove up in a four-door black car," Metzler said. "They noticed a man who appeared to be photographing or videotaping them with a cellphone. Apparently they also saw he was masturbating."
The man, whose face was covered with a black bandanna, did not get out of the car. Metzler said after making eye contact with the girls, he drove away in a hurry, yelling "Thank you, girls" as he left.
Metzler said that's the only report of that kind in the village recently.
Metzler was sharing his information with Nate Rath, the Champaign police detective assigned to the other cases.
Koontz said the incident involving her daughters left her "freaked out" and said after reading about a man approaching the younger children on Country Lake Drive, she was even more shaken.
"I want other parents to be aware. I don't want anybody's kids to come up missing. That's a parent's worst nightmare," said Koontz.