Cases involving sex with children made headlines in 2013
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org December 27, 2013 11:19PM
Christopher M. Bour and Natisha Hillard. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
The U.S. District Court in Hammond is known for drug conspiracy and public corruption cases, but two of the most notorious cases from the past year involved sexual crimes against children.
In March, Jack Schaap, the former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after admitting he took a 16-year-old parishioner and student across state lines for sex.
What made national headlines, however, was the release by federal attorneys shortly before his sentence of letters he had written to the victim, claiming their relationship was ordained by Jesus and that it was helping to save her soul.
“I’ve been doing much thinking about you — our brief journey together has been like a spiritual allegory (a story that illustrates a truth :) ... Your life began to deteriorate w/ actions + activities that were self-destructive + that would have brought great tragedy eventually,” he wrote to the victim. “Then, as your Pastor, I began to counsel you + (unintelligible) you to God, the truth, and to a better path of living — that’s what we call Righteousness.”
He went on to write that he could only save her by pulling her close to him and that she was also being used by God to minister and help Schaap. He also told her that when she playfully referred to herself as his wife, it was what God wanted.
Federal attorneys argued that the victim, who attended school at Hammond Baptist in Schererville, was struggling after a failed relationship and was told by another church official to put all her trust in Schaap and to let him guide her. Instead of normal, short counseling sessions, however, Schaap spent hours locked up with her alone in his office. He then got church employees to take her to his properties in Illinois and Michigan by telling them he needed alone time with her to work on her counseling.
Church employees grew concerned with how much time Schaap spent alone with the girl and started to speak up. One employee found incriminating photos of Schaap and the victim and brought them forward. Schaap then had a staff meeting where he yelled at employees for questioning them and fired one of them.
The girl’s parents wrote to the court that the church had effectively kicked them out.
“We taught our children to have implicit faith and trust in pastors,” her father wrote. “I never imagined such emotional and psychological harm could be inflicted on our daughter and family by a man and Church I respected and trusted.”
She herself wrote that although she at first felt to blame because she thought Schaap truly loved her, she now understands he took advantage of someone who had little self-esteem at the time.
Schaap is serving his 12-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Ky.
Sex with infant alleged
The second big case of the year involved Christopher Bour, 39, and Natisha Hillard, 24, who were arrested and charged in March after police discovered evidence that Bour paid Hillard to have sex with a baby who was about 6-to-9 months old at the time and film it.
According to court records, Bour asked the owner of a former massage parlor he sometimes frequented if she wanted to videotape him sexually touching an infant. He also played child pornography when she visited his house once. The woman went to police after he texted her in February asking her if she wanted to watch and film him with a child. The woman allowed the FBI to respond acting as her, and Bour replied saying he had touched a young child.
The FBI eventually searched his house, and he admitted to downloading child pornography but denied ever actually touching a child.
However, investigators discovered six images of him sexually touching a child who was being held by someone else. Officials say that person is Hillard, who provided the child to Bour in exchange for money. She is also accused of selling another child, around 3 to 5 years old, to Bour for money.
Both defendants have pleaded not guilty in the case but have been ordered held without bond. Bour did write a letter in May asking for another bond hearing, saying he only waived his right to bond because his court-appointed attorney told him to do so at the time. Bour says in the letter that he’s never had a criminal past and that people rely on him and his business.
“Up until now I feel I’ve been a good, productive citizen,” he wrote.
The request was denied, however. The trial, which has been delayed several times, is set for Feb. 10, federal attorneys said in the most recent motion to continue. Bour and Hillard each face mandatory minimums of 30 years in prison if they are convicted of buying (Bour) and selling (Hillard) a child.