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California man charged in 2007 rape of Robbins girl

Dionysus West

Dionysus West is a suspect in a 2007 sexual assault in Robbins. | Cook County Sheriff

Dionysus West thought he was in the clear in the Christmas 2007 rape of a 12-year-old girl in south suburban Robbins, Cook County Sheriff’s officials say.

West, a relative of the boyfriend of the girl’s mother, was a suspect. But Robbins detectives failed to follow up on evidence they sent to the Illinois State Police. West moved to Oakland, California, where his father lived, and the case grew cold.

But late last month, the 41-year-old man was picked up in Oakland on an arrest warrant and ordered held without bail in the Cook County Jail on a charge of predatory sexual assault.

Cook County Sheriff’s officials say the West case is an example of how the Robbins Police Department failed to follow up on sexual assault investigations.

“He thought this case was over,” Sheriff’s Detective Judith Powe said. “He was shocked that he was arrested for this.”

In 2007, Robbins police sent a rape kit to the state police, whose crime laboratory found semen in the girl’s underwear. The state police sent a letter to Robbins seeking approval to test the semen for a DNA profile. But the state police never got the go-ahead from Robbins and the case languished, Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. James Davis said.

Last year, the sheriff’s office sent the rape kit to an independent crime lab and got a DNA hit on West, Davis said.

In 2013, Robbins officials invited Sheriff Tom Dart’s office to inventory their evidence room after Robbins Police Chief Johnny Holmes resigned under a cloud.

The sheriff’s officials discovered that evidence collected from 55 rapes dating back as far as 1986 was never submitted to the state police for testing. Another 121 rape kits — key evidence in sexual assault cases — had been tested, with the results and evidence sent back to the Robbins police, but the department never did anything with them.

The sheriff’s investigation has led to charges against five people, including West, for sex crimes dating to 2006.

Last month, Holmes told the Chicago Sun-Times he didn’t understand why the Robbins department had dropped the ball on those cases under his watch.

“I cannot imagine that we would intentionally not respond to a request by the state,” he said.

Recently, sheriff’s officials were able to solve another rape. They investigated a Robbins rape kit that was submitted to the state police but did not result in a “hit” on a suspect. They learned the nickname of the suspect, obtained a real name from the Robbins police, and discovered the 65-year-old man had died of cancer in November. The victim then picked out the man in a photo array, Davis said.

The current Robbins police administration has been cooperative with the sheriff’s ongoing investigation of the suburb’s old sexual assault cases, Davis said. The sheriff’s office is pushing legislation in Springfield to prevent such rape cases from falling through the cracks in the future.