For more than a decade, Craig Hartfield raped two young female relatives and kept them in the cult-like confines of his Roseland apartment, Cook County prosecutors said. To enforce silence about his crimes, he warned his victims that if anyone ever found out what he had done, the family would be “ripped apart”— with the children sent to foster care and Hartfield sent to prison.
Monday, he was proved half right. Judge Charles Burns sentenced 51-year-old Hartfield to 76 years in prison for sexual assault against one of the relatives that began when she was 9 years old and lasted until she and her siblings fled the house some 15 years later.
“I believe this man needs to removed from society, and I believe that this man should not be allowed to walk this earth,” Burns said. “I believe that he is a sexual predator and I believe that he will be so for the rest of his life.”
During a bench trial in December, Burns heard testimony from the two Hartfield relatives who said they endured almost nightly attacks that began when they were in grade school in the late 1990s and continued even after they had given birth to children fathered by Hartfield when they were in their 20s. The victims and their other loved ones, Burns noted, seemed to be faring well in the years since their escape.
Hartfield had gone to extremes to conceal his crimes. After finding a copy of a note his eldest victim had written, detailing the abuse for a guidance counselor, Hartfield withdrew the youngster from school, prosecutors said. As three younger relatives reached middle school age, each also would be removed from school and homeschooled.
Hartfield’s two victims gave birth a year apart, concealing their pregnancies until going into labor, and Hartfield delivered both children in the back of a car in a remote bus parking lot, prosecutors said.
Years later, the young women fled from the home to a shelter, taking their children and younger siblings. None of them attended Hartfield’s sentencing hearing Monday.
Hartfield has not spoken in the courtroom, or even said a word to his lawyers for nearly two years. When Burns asked Hartfield if he wanted to speak before he was sentenced, Hartfield peered at the judge over his reading glasses and shook his head.
Hartfield still faces trial on sexual assault charges tied to the second relative. If he’s convicted in that case, he would face a mandatory life sentence. A third case, based on charges he sexually assaulted an older female relative after the younger relatives had fled the house, is also pending.