Jury rules man must remain in sex offenders facility

URBANA — A Champaign man has failed for a fourth time in his attempt to be released from a locked facility for sex offenders.

A Champaign County jury on Friday concluded that Mark Hancock, 62, remains sexually dangerous and in need of continued treatment for the mental disorders that make him likely to re-offend.

Hancock was first found to be sexually dangerous in a Champaign County proceeding in June 2001 and was committed to a unit for sexually dangerous persons at the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina. Hancock has been there ever since, receiving treatment.

He tried unsuccessfully in 2002, 2005 and 2009 to win his release by presenting evidence that he had improved. Two of those times a jury disagreed. The third attempt was a bench trial before Judge John Kennedy, who also presided over this week's jury trial on the question.

Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher put on former Champaign police Detective Tom Walton to testify about an unusual break-in in that city in 2000 in which Hancock entered a stranger's home while the man slept. When confronted by the resident, Hancock said he was there looking for sex.

Hancock admitted to Walton that he had difficulty controlling his sexual urges. Police used information from Hancock to tie him to other sex-related incidents involving young girls in Champaign and Urbana in the late 1990s. He was not convicted of those, but the incidents were used in his original trial seeking to have him declared sexually dangerous.

Fletcher said Hancock also admitted taking trips to Indianapolis and Springfield looking for children to approach, and to numerous other incidents of window peeping, indecent exposure, and entering the homes of strangers.

Other state witnesses called by Fletcher included two social workers, a psychiatrist and a psychologist who specializes in assessing the risk that sex offenders will re-offend. All concluded Hancock is not currently able to control his sexual behavior and that there is a substantial probability he will re-offend if not confined.

Public Defender Randy Rosenbaum, who represented Hancock in his two prior attempts to gain release, argued that Hancock has improved over the years.

Rosenbaum conceded that Hancock may never be cured but that he has learned the skills necessary to have a chance to live outside of prison.

He has been in the Big Muddy facility since 2001. He petitioned for his latest review in October 2010, Rosenbaum said. But because of a dearth of professionals to evaluate sex offenders, it wasn't until April 2013 that the experts submitted their conclusions to Fletcher and Rosenbaum.

A jury was chosen Wednesday to hear the testimony. Jurors returned their verdict Friday afternoon after deliberating about three hours.

Hancock has four sex-related criminal convictions dating from 1976 in Maryland and Virginia and was linked to three different sex crimes in Urbana and Champaign in the late 1990s and 2000.

Tom Shaer, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said there are 168 men in the sexually dangerous unit at Big Muddy River, where the program has been housed since 1995.

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