More than 20 years before Christopher M. Derleth was charged with kidnapping his 13-year-old adopted daughter and her newborn baby, he allegedly filmed himself having sex with another teen girl.
Five years after that, he punched a Granite City cop and took his squad car.
Despite having a criminal background, Derleth, 39, was able to adopt his two stepdaughters, Katherine and Amber, last year in Bond County Circuit Court. His background also shows he worked as a babysitter being paid under a state program, according to his current wife, Jennifer Derleth, and to divorce papers from a previous marriage.
Christopher Derleth remains jailed in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where he was arrested Saturday, Sept. 24 by U.S. deputy marshals at a wooded campsite not far from a convenience store where he bought beer and soda. Both children were found in good condition.
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While in the store, a clerk recognized Derleth from an Amber Alert broadcast across several states after the two children went missing from an Illinois foster home Sept. 17 in Madison County. Derleth faces an extradition hearing Wednesday on whether he will be returned to Illinois to face charges of aggravated kidnapping and child abduction.
The charge of aggravated kidnapping describes the victim Katherine as suffering from “severe or profound intellectual disability.”
The children had been placed in the foster home after an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. There was a court order in Bond County barring Derleth from having contact with Katherine and her infant son, Christopher R. Derleth.
Katherine Derleth gave birth to the boy by Caesarean section on Sept. 1. Madison County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza said the child has a birth certificate on file but information contained within it, including the identity of the father, is not public and can only be released to a member of the immediate family.
According to law enforcement officials, a paternity test to determine the identity of the baby’s father is underway. If the test shows that Derleth is the father, he could be charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault of a minor, a Class X felony in Illinois.
In 1994, 17-year-old Derleth was charged with two felony counts of child pornography involving the videotaping of Derleth having sex with a “minor female under 18,” according to records filed with his 2010 divorce case. The felonies were reduced to an obscenity charge, a Class A misdemeanor, and Derleth received court supervision.
But this record could not be found in the court files under “criminal” because it is likely that the conviction was expunged, or removed from the record by court order. Reporters found a record of his case in Derleth’s 1999 criminal history; the full record of the 1994 case was located on microfilm.
Five years later, Derleth was arrested in Granite City after a police officer said Derleth struck him and made off with the officer’s new Ford Crown Victoria squad car, which later was found crashed. He was given 18 months probation for the lesser charge of damaging government-supported property, and completed probation successfully.
Derleth had job in child care
In documents that are part of his 2010 divorce, a court clerk wrote, “Father reports that he may have job opportunities with Chasi (Children Home and Aid Society) program and Spectrum,” organizations that provide child care as part of their programs. Chasi does not hire the child-care workers but administers a state-subsidy program to individuals who provide babysitting services. A spokesman for Chasi could not be reached for comment.
In another divorce file document, the clerk wrote, “Father provides two paycheck stubs from his child-care employment.”
The Illinois comptrollers’ office confirmed Derleth received payment in July 2011 for $423.05, and similar payments in August, September and December of the same year. Those payments were made on behalf of the Illinois Department of Human Services, which administers day-care subsidy payments.
In a photograph posted on Jennifer Derleth’s Facebook page, she is shown with her husband Christopher, daughter Katherine and Katherine’s younger sister, Amber.
“It’s official — the new and improved Katherine and Amber Derleth legally” the caption stated. The photo was posted June 24, 2015.
Also in the photograph, taken in front of a judge’s bench, is Bond County Circuit Court Judge John Knight, who may have presided over the adoption of the children by Christopher Derleth. Knight could not be reached. Adoption records are sealed and not available to the public.
Jennifer Derleth confirmed that her husband worked as a child-care provider several years back around the time of his divorce. She declined to comment on the nature of her daughter and husband’s relationship, but said Christopher Derleth never babysat Katherine.
Jennifer Derleth said Friday she had spoken with her daughter via telephone when the girl and her baby flew back to the metro-east escorted by a state caseworker. It was their first conversation since Katherine Derleth went missing from her Madison County foster home a week earlier.
“It was wonderful,” Jennifer Derleth said Friday upon hearing her daughter tell her that she and baby Christopher were safe.