BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A police officer arrested after was he spotted lurking outside a home was charged Friday with raping four women since 2002.
Two of the rape victims identified Bloomington Sgt. Jeff Pelo from a photo lineup, and police found a mask, pry bar and other items in his home that appeared to have been used in at least one of the assaults, Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Messman said.
“Police believe that, based upon similarities in the assaults, that one man is responsible for all four assaults,” Messman said in court.
In addition to the rape charges, Pelo, 41, is also charged with two counts of home invasion, alleging he was armed with a knife in one case and a gun in another, and charges of aggravated stalking and attempted residential burglary.
Steve Skelton, Pelo’s attorney, said the identifications were suspect.
“I don’t think there’s any believable reason he could be charged,” Skelton said. “But I don’t think under the circumstances that there’s any likelihood of a conviction in this case because I’m firmly convinced today, as I was several weeks ago, of the innocence of my client.”
Pelo, who has been on administrative leave since his arrest last month on suspicion of stalking, made no comment during the brief hearing.
The judge set his bail at $2 million, and Pelo’s wife left the courtroom without comment, escorted by court security.
Family stands by suspect
Reached late Friday, Pelo’s mother-in-law said family members are standing by him.
“I don’t have anything to say — except that he’s innocent,” Sandra Benecke said.
Police spokesman Dave White said the department had no comment.
According to the criminal filing, the rapes took place on Dec. 18, 2002; April 4, 2003; Jan. 4, 2005; and Jan. 26, 2005. Pelo was charged with home invasion in the 2005 rapes.
Pelo, a 17-year veteran of the department, was arrested June 11, a day after he was spotted lurking outside the home of a woman who had reported an attempted break-in, authorities said. An officer saw Pelo wearing a black T-shirt and shorts and questioned him.
Pelo told the officer he was out looking for a home for his mother-in-law, authorities said. He was allowed to leave but was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary the next day after taking a police department promotional examination.
He was indicted Wednesday on charges of aggravated stalking and attempted residential burglary. Prosecutors say Pelo stalked the woman at least twice before.
Pelo and the woman apparently met last year when she went to the police department to file a report. Pelo was the desk sergeant at the time and approved the report, which included the woman’s name, address, work phone and other information, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the hearing and said they would not release any additional information. No details about the womens’ ages were released.
The Bloomington area, including its twin city Normal, is home to Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and about 110,000 residents.
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