A 25-year-old ex-convict was charged Thursday in the rape and beating of the 9-year-old child known as Girl X, nearly three months after she was found unconscious in a filthy public housing stairwell.
Patrick Sykes allegedly raped, choked and poisoned Girl X for sexual gratification, Chicago police spokesman Paul Jenkins said.
It was “a crime of opportunity. He saw the victim walking alone and went after her,” Jenkins said.
Sykes, who was in prison from 1991-1993 for attempted criminal sexual assault, confessed to the brutal attack on Girl X and revealed details not known to the general public, Jenkins said.
He was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, predatory sexual assault, heinous battery, unlawful restraint and aggravated sexual assault of a minor, Jenkins said.
Sykes was visiting Girl X’s building in the Cabrini-Green apartment complex when he saw her walking up a stairwell, police said.
He pulled the 64-pound girl into a vacant apartment and choked her into unconsciousness before sexually assaulting her, Jenkins said.
Sykes poured a gasoline-type substance down her throat and scrawled on her body with a marker for an “inane reason,” Jenkins said.
He said police were led to Sykes by a tip telephoned to police 10 days ago. He wouldn’t reveal details about the caller but said police had obtained physical evidence that supports Sykes’ confession.
As police followed the clues, the child was embraced by Chicagoans as a symbol of violence in the city’s crumbling housing projects.
Hundreds attended vigils. The Rev. Jesse Jackson helped raise thousands of dollars for psychiatric care. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan prayed at her bedside.
“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.”
The girl, whose name has been a closely guarded secret, lay unconscious in a hospital bed for weeks with armed guards outside the door. Then, on Monday, she laughed, cried and smiled for the first time since the attack.
But the girl still cannot speak and communicates only by shaking her head. Doctors do not know her long-term prognosis.
Her suffering began on the snowy morning of Jan. 9 when she left a playmate’s apartment and started for home alone through the notorious housing project.
When the 4-foot-8-inch girl was found hours later, a gasolinelike substance was in her stomach and a pitchfork emblem of the Gangster Disciples street gang was scrawled across her body, possibly with a marking pen.
With the girl unable to describe her attacker, police scrambled for clues, even showing the graffiti to a handwriting expert.
But police said Thursday the attackis not gang-related. Officers had speculated earlier that the attacker may have scrawled the graffiti to try to fool police.
Police interviewed 400 to 500 people and got a steady stream of information from residents, Jenkins said.
Still, reaction to the crime was slow in coming, and many blacks were indignant that the slaying of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in Colorado initially got more attention in Chicago.