East St. Louis man pleads guilty to sexual abuse of 11-year-old girl

A man accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old child pleaded guilty as a Madison County jury prepared to hear his case.

DeMarco Neal, 37, of East St. Louis, was about to go to trial on two counts of predatory sexual assault of a child younger than 13 and one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Jury selection began Monday afternoon, but shortly thereafter, Neal opted to plead guilty, averting the trial.

Neal pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual abuse, a class 2 felony. The other two counts were dismissed. He will serve an extended-term sentence of 14 years, of which he must serve at least 50 percent, and he will be required to register as a sex offender for life.

“This was a challenging case from the start, and there were serious concerns about the well-being of the victim if she were forced to testify at trial,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said. “With this sentence, we are glad to see a sexual predator put behind bars for harming a child — and, fortunately, without causing any further victimization to this very young girl who has already suffered so much.”

The case was investigated by the Collinsville Police Department and Madison County Child Advocacy Center.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald