Man convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child

Man convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child

URBANA — A Champaign man convicted of sexually molesting a young girl faces as many as 120 years in prison when he's sentenced in September.

A Champaign County jury on Wednesday took a little more than two hours to convict Sherell Warfield of two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, alleging two different sex acts that occurred in December 2012 with a then 9-year-old girl.

Warfield, 38, who listed an address in the 700 block of Tawney Court, testified that he was a frequent visitor to the home of the girl's mother, whom he has known more than 11 years.

The mother testified to an on-again, off-again relationship over the years with Warfield, who also had a different girlfriend. In the fall of 2012, she said, she was not dating him even though he spent a lot of time at her house.

"It was just sex," said the woman, who admitted that she let him come and go and that he was often in her home with her children while she was at work. The woman, two of her children, and Warfield all testified that Warfield was not there to babysit.

The older children and the victim all testified that on Dec. 7, 2013, they had gotten into an argument over the 9-year-old girl not doing her share of the housework while their mother was at work. The older siblings were taunting their younger sister about adults in their lives who would punish her if she didn't what she was supposed to.

Her older brother testified that when Warfield's name came up, his sister replied that Warfield wouldn't do anything to her "because he knows what he did to me." The older brother said she then started crying harder. He said he pressed her to tell him what she meant and she eventually said that Warfield had touched "her privates."

The brother then summoned another sister, who heard their younger sibling repeat the allegations. They then contacted their mother at work, and she called police.

The shy, extremely soft-spoken child testified Tuesday that she was sleeping the night Warfield came in her room, took her to her mother's room, pulled down her pants and molested her.

"He said it was punishment for getting in trouble for talking in class and not listening to the teacher," she said, adding the next day he said, "If you tell anybody, I'm going to whoop you."

And for a year, she didn't tell anyone, she said, because she was afraid he might hurt her.

Warfield, who said he has eight children but named only seven for his attorney, testified that he spent a lot of time at the woman's Champaign home because his other girlfriend had put him out.

Unemployed with past drug-related convictions, Warfield admitted that he mostly "ran the streets at night" and stayed at the woman's house even while she was away at work.

He denied committing the sex acts on the girl. When his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones, asked why the child might have said he did, he responded, "I don't know. I think it might have something to do with her mother but I can't really say."

In closing arguments, Miller-Jones suggested the girl's mother put her up to leveling the allegations because the mother was angry with Warfield over their relationship.

"Animosity goes a long way and we women can hold a grudge for a really, really, really long time," Miller-Jones said.

Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett said the girl had no animosity toward Warfield prior to the molestation and said it was "pretty ludicrous" that she would have blurted out that she was molested just to get out of house cleaning.

"You need to find a victim who is alone ... and unlikely to tell others," Bennett said. "What motivation does she have to lie?"

Whatever sentence Judge Heidi Ladd imposes on Warfield, he will have to serve 85 percent. He faces six to 60 years on each of the counts and the sentences must be served one after the other.

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