Man arrested over alleged plot to videorecord sex with memory-care patients

Man arrested over alleged plot to videorecord sex with memory-care patients

URBANA — An employee of a memory care facility in west Champaign has been charged with soliciting others to have sex with female residents so that he could videotape them.

First Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said it appears that the men Channing J. Butler, 26, was hiring never consummated sex acts with the three elderly women, but not for lack of trying.

The alleged attempts at sex occurred in June at Bickford, 1002 S. Staley Road, C, an assisted living and memory care facility for seniors. The victims were ages 88, 90 and 95. One of the women has since died.

"It happened in the middle of the night but at the time it happened, they were awake or conscious. It's not like there was no reaction," Ziegler said of the victims, whom he described as having profound memory problems and being unable to be interviewed by police.

"They tried to do this and the victims kept pushing them away," he said.

Butler allegedly wanted the men to perform both oral and vaginal sex on the women, Ziegler said.

"They were all in the same area and he was an employee who was supposed to be working. He was doing this during his employment hours. There were no other employees around." Ziegler said Champaign police have been investigating the allegations for several months after one of the men Butler allegedly hired to perform the sex acts "got a guilty conscience" and brought it to the attention of authorities in Vermilion County, where he was being held in the jail.

That information was relayed to authorities in Champaign County, who figured out that the facility was Bickford Cottage, which is in the city of Champaign. Champaign police then launched an investigation.

Ziegler filed six counts alleging three different victims, on Tuesday against only Butler, 26, who listed an address in the 500 block of East Eureka Street, Champaign.

Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis immediately issued a warrant for his arrest carrying a $1 million bond and Champaign police picked him up at his home just before 1 p.m.

Ziegler said Butler has no prior criminal convictions.

Solicitation to commit aggravated criminal sexual assault is a Class 1 felony, carrying penalties ranging from probation to four to 15 years in prison.

Ziegler said of the other three men involved in doing Butler's bidding, two are currently in prison and police have been unable to find the third.

Police learned that Butler recruited the men to have sex with the women so that he could videotape the interactions.

"He's paying them so he can do the videos, which we believe he may have been reselling. It's not entirely clear if it was for his own sexual gratification or for reselling or both," said the prosecutor.

Ziegler said police obtained Butler's cellphone and retrieved still images from it that support what the Vermilion County inmate told police.

"There are pictures and text messages which would seem to confirm some of these activities. I can't match victims to dates. There are also texts recovered from his cellphone that involve discussing solicitation, payment and recording of sexual acts with people over 70," Ziegler said.

One of the men told police that he was promised $60 for his visit.

"He only got $40," Ziegler said.

The three men who were allegedly hired by Butler are ages 21, 22 and 24. Ziegler said all are from East Central Illinois.

Butler is scheduled to appear in arraignment court Wednesday.

Alan Fairbanks, executive vice president of the Olathe, Kan.-based Bickford Senior Living, declined to say if Butler is still employed at the Bickford facility in Champaign or when he was hired there.

Butler worked for the Champaign County Nursing Home as a certified nurse assistant from November 2012 to April 2013, according to county records.

Fairbanks said Bickford officials have cooperated with police and have alerted the families of other residents there of the situation.

“At the time we were made aware of the situation, we reviewed the safety of all our residents to make sure they were kept safe and cooperated with the regulatory authorities,” Fairbanks said. “The safety of our residents is of utmost importance. It’s something that we take very seriously.”

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