Metro-East News

How did zip-tie rapist die in prison? By using a bed sheet

Prosecutor talks about rape case involving 10-year-old

Bernadette Schrempp, chief of the Children’s Justice Division with the St. Clair County State’s Attorney's Office, talks about the case involving the videotaping and rape of a 10-year-old who was zip-tied. Gary M.J. “Mikel” Grodin was sentenced
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Bernadette Schrempp, chief of the Children’s Justice Division with the St. Clair County State’s Attorney's Office, talks about the case involving the videotaping and rape of a 10-year-old who was zip-tied. Gary M.J. “Mikel” Grodin was sentenced

The man who was facing a 56-year prison sentence for zip-tying the hands of a 10-year-old girl, raping her and videotaping the assault, killed himself, according to an Illinois State Police and Randolph County Coroner investigation.

The investigation by state police, which was obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, revealed that Gary M.J. “Mikel” Grodin pulled a bed sheet through the mount of the upper deck of his cell then tied the other end around his neck, according to a state police report.

“ ... the victim (Grodin) had recently been relocated to this cell block, West Cell House Cell #24, and that he was the only occupant of the cell,” wrote Illinois State Police crime scene investigator Jim Minckler. “The victim was discovered unresponsive with a bed sheet tied around his neck during a cell check.”

Randolph County Coroner Randy Dudenbostel previously stated that the cause of Grodin’s death was natural, but would not elaborate until the completion of the investigation.

Illinois Department of Corrections personnel tried to perform live-saving measures but failed.

Grodin’s cause of death was listed as asphyxiation by hanging.

The toxicology was negative, except for Citalopram, an anti-depressant.

There was no mention of a note in either the state police investigation or Randolph County Coroner’s investigation.

Grodin, 33, pleaded guilty in June to four of 31 counts of child pornography and predatory criminal sexual assault. Grodin was sentenced to 56 years in prison. He began his sentence on June 29. He was found dead in his cell on July 20 at Menard Correctional Center in Chester.

“We’ll never know if he took his life out of guilt or because he couldn’t handle the punishment for his evil actions,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. “I just hope there is some measure of closure to the victim in this case, some comfort in knowing he is no longer on this Earth.”

We’ll never know if he took his life out of guilt or because he couldn’t handle the punishment for his evil actions.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly

Kelly called Grodin’s crime “one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking cases of child sexual assault in recent memory.”

An Oklahoma resident who was an associate of Grodin’s called police after receiving a Facebook message from Grodin, who said he was staying in Illinois with an ex-girlfriend. He then relayed that he was having a sexual relationship with the woman’s 10-year-old daughter. The message recipient called police.

Swansea police found dozens of photographs and videos of the girl being raped by Grodin on a cell phone and tablet used by Grodin.

Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson, whose department investigated the rape of a 10-year-old girl, described it as a "very horrific case." Gary M.J. “Mikel” Grodin was sentenced to 56 years in prison.

In an interview, the girl told police that Grodin would make her take her clothes off, then he would touch her. Grodin would bind her hands with plastic zip ties so she could not cover herself, then he would take pictures of her. In one video, the girl is nude, touching Grodin’s genitals and performing oral sex on Grodin. In another, the girl is screaming as Grodin engages in intercourse with her.

After he was charged, Grodin fled. He was captured in Tulsa, Okla., by U.S. Marshals.

Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson called Grodin’s case the worst case involving children he had ever been involved with, calling it an “ugly, ugly case.”

An autopsy was done at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville by Dr. Gershom Norfleet on July 22.

Norfleet found injuries consistent with hanging, including an abrasion on the neck and tiny hemorrhages in the eyes.

Grodin’s body was cremated six days after his death. There was no indication that anyone received his ashes.

“We are content the thorough investigation proved his death was a suicide,” Johnson said. “We also know this possibly complicates the mental and emotional recovery process by the victim. This is a situation where no one wins but our most important concern is the safety and welfare of the victim and her family.”

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

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