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Ex-convict charged in sexual assault of 'Girl X'

9-year-old Chicago girl was left for dead

April 4, 1997
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT)

CHICAGO (CNN) -- Police have charged a 25-year-old ex-convict with sexual assault in the so-called "Girl X" case, a crime of such brutality the 9-year-old girl remains hospitalized nearly three months later.

Patrick Sykes, who spent 1991 through 1993 in prison for attempted sexual assault, was charged Thursday with sexual assault, kidnapping, predatory sexual assault and heinous battery, among other charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison on each charge.

Sykes allegedly raped the girl, then choked and poisoned her before leaving her for dead -- with graffiti scribbled on her body -- in a stairwell at Chicago's Cabrini-Green public housing project. Police said he confessed after being presented with physical evidence against him.

"The offender saw the victim walking upstairs, and he abducted her into an apartment where he sexually assaulted her," police spokesman Paul Jenkins said.

Jenkins said police were led to Sykes by a tip phoned in about 10 days ago. The spokesman would not reveal details about the caller, but said police had obtained enough physical evidence to tie Sykes to the January 9 crime.

"We wanted to make sure, make very certain that we had the right person," Jenkins said.

Girl's long-term prognosis unknown

Housing

The girl, whose name has been kept private, remained unconscious for a month. She still cannot speak and communicates only by shaking her head. Doctors do not yet know her long-term prognosis.

But within the past week, she has started responding to people, spontaneously laughing, smiling and crying in a appropriate situations, according to a spokesman at the Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, where the girl is being treated.

For many, the heinous crime illustrates the terrible environment for children in a development built to provide safe, decent housing for the poor. Others were simply shocked at the crime.

"It's a horrible, horrible thing," said the Rev. Maxine Walker, a Baptist minister. "It makes you wonder what kind of consciousness, what kind of mind, would do this."

Hundreds have attended vigils for the girl. The Rev. Jesse Jackson helped raise thousands of dollars for psychiatric care. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan prayed at her bedside.

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