Former LITH man tries suicide in courtroom
WOODSTOCK – Moments after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl, a former Lake in the Hills man swallowed something in an apparent suicide attempt.
After tipping back an envelope made of notebook paper and pouring a small, granule-like substance into his mouth, Robert W. Lucht, 56, turned toward his two sisters and a son as they hugged.
As they embraced, Lucht spit a bit of the substance on the sweater of one of his sisters. He wiped it off with his hand before taking his seat at the defense table again.
Lucht’s son asked a bailiff for water, and people in the gallery told prosecutors that Lucht had put something in his mouth.
Two bailiffs took Lucht to the floor and ordered him to spit out what he had taken. He refused and wouldn’t say what he swallowed.
“I’m not going to jail for something I didn’t do,” Lucht said while on the courtroom floor.
He was taken from the courtroom on a stretcher, running his tongue around in his mouth as he was wheeled down the hallway.
Kim Kubiak, spokeswoman for Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, said Wednesday evening that Lucht was there, under guard, and stable. He was admitted under a 36-hour watch, she said.
The jury deliberated for about two and a half hours before returning guilty verdicts on three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Lucht faces a minimum of 21 years in prison and a maximum of 120 years when he is sentenced. That is scheduled for Nov. 20.
Lucht’s sister, who identified herself as Carol Lucht, said her brother is innocent.
“We will maintain that until the day we die,” she said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, who is also chief of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office’s criminal division, said Lucht was trying to take the coward’s way out.
“I would be disappointed if he died before serving his prison sentence that he justly deserves,” Combs said. “He deserves to go to prison for a long time for the permanent pain and suffering that he caused a little girl.”
At age 11, the victim was hospitalized in a behavioral health center for cutting herself and having suicidal thoughts. While there, she told her case manager that Lucht had sexually abused her.
Now 15, she testified Tuesday about the abuse, as did a Lake in the Hills officer who said that Lucht signed a written statement that said, “Whatever [the victim] said about Robert Lucht is true.”
Lucht took the stand Wednesday morning in his own defense and denied sexually abusing the girl.
Wednesday’s apparent suicide attempt in the courtroom was not Lucht’s first.
When detectives left the room during a 2009 interview of Lucht, he shoved money and a paper towel down his throat to try to kill himself.
The interview lasted about a hour and a half, and he panicked, Lucht said.
“I was scared. I didn’t want to go to prison for something I didn’t do. I didn’t do it. That was my only way out,” he testified Wednesday.
Defense attorney Michael Norris said Lucht’s written statement to police in 2009 was made because he wanted to stop the interrogation.
“That statement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” he said.
In his closing argument, Combs said the first suicide attempt was a sign of consciousness of guilt.
Combs told jurors to think about the irreparable harm done to the girl, who remains in foster care.
Instead of lasting memories of being pushed on a swing, going to the park or going fishing, the girl has memories of being sexually assaulted, Combs said. “Ask yourself why an 11-year-old child is cutting herself and having suicidal ideations if she has a perfect home life,” he said. “That is completely illogical.”
He told jurors that they should sign guilty verdicts and then go home and shower after the “sordid, deviant, disgusting nightmare.”
Norris focused on the time of the abuse, saying the girl’s mother would have been home when it happened.
He also questioned why the girl didn’t make her accusations until she was in the hospital, especially because she had previously met with a school counselor.
The girl didn’t have a good home life and no one paid attention to her, Norris said. But when she said she had been sexually abused, people listened, he said.