Crime

Derleth agrees to return to Illinois; will face kidnap charges

Christopher Derleth in court Wednesday in West Virginia.
Christopher Derleth in court Wednesday in West Virginia. Charleston Gazette-Mail

A man accused of kidnapping his 13-year-old stepdaughter and her infant son has agreed to be extradited from West Virginia and will return to Madison County to face multiple felony charges.

Katherine Derleth and her baby son, Christopher, were taken from a foster home in rural Madison County on Sept. 17. Madison County soon charged Katherine’s stepfather, Christopher M. Derleth, 39, with aggravated kidnapping and child abduction. Derleth had been under a restraining order to keep away from Katherine and her baby at the time, amid a Bond County investigation into baby Christopher’s paternity.

Derleth, 39, of Granite City, waived his right to extradition proceedings in Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman’s courtroom Wednesday morning in Kanawha County, in West Virginia, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Derleth, who told the judge he did not attend school after the 10th grade, was represented by Diana Panucci, chief public defender for Kanawha County.

Christopher Derleth, Katherine Derleth and the baby were located at a remote campground in West Virginia a week ago. Katherine and baby Christopher were found to be in good condition and were returned to the metro-east.

In the meantime, Derleth has been in custody in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said he has been coordinating efforts with Kanawha County prosecutors to get Derleth back to Illinois to face prosecution. Gibbons confirmed that Derleth appeared in court Wednesday and agreed to waive his right to fight extradition to Illinois. He thanked the sheriff’s departments in both Madison and Kanawha counties as well as the Kanawha prosecutor’s office for contributing to the safe return of the children and Derleth’s arrest.

“We look forward to having the defendant in our custody so that we can continue our prosecution and pursuit of justice for these extremely serious crimes,” Gibbons said.

The charge of aggravated kidnapping describes the victim Katherine as suffering from “severe or profound intellectual disability.” 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.

Bond County officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the progress of that investigation.

In 1994, Christopher Derleth, 17 at the time, 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. The 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.

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.

Despite these records, Derleth was briefly employed as a child care worker, according to court documents in his 2010 divorce. The Illinois Comptroller’s Office confirmed Derleth was paid as a child care worker through state-subsidized programs for three months in 2011. He was also allowed to legally adopt Katherine and her younger sister last year in Bond County.

Derleth was being held Wednesday in South Charleston, W.V., and Madison County has until Oct. 17 to pick him up.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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