WOODSTOCK – To many residents in Jack Leo Smith’s McHenry neighborhood, his home was a retreat for children to escape a parent’s watchful eye. For years, his open-door policy brought neighbors – young and old – through his doors.
But inside the 2811 Myang Ave. home, prosecutors said another story unfolded – one that was much more sinister.
It was there, in a back room, that three female victims said Smith, now 75, performed sex acts on them, or had them reciprocate. It’s where they said he showed them pornographic films and magazines, and explained sex acts to the young girls.
Where they posed for nude photographs.
Where he talked about starting a neighborhood teen sex club.
Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein on Thursday called it a “house of horrors” during closing arguments in Smith’s stipulated bench trial before McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather.
“The defendant had ulterior motives in wanting young girls to come visit his home,” Eisenstein said.
Smith was found guilty of all the charges against him, including three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, for the incidents that happened more than a decade ago.
The victims, now all adults, lived in the neighborhood at the time. The first came forward in 2010 because she wanted to ensure that nude photographs of her taken at Smith’s house were never made public.
From there it was a domino effect. In all, three victims told authorities similar stories about what went on in Smith’s home.
Attorneys described him as eccentric. A “perverted grandpa” figure. A hoarder.
Among the items Smith held on to were piles of photographs of clothed children.
Missing among those stacks were photos of the victims – a key argument for the defense.
“The evidence makes him look bizarre but it does not corroborate the charges,” his defense attorney, Public Defender Kim Messer said.
What the photos showed was a pattern of disturbing behavior, Eisenstein countered.
The prosecution also offered Smith’s personal journals found in his home as evidence. One writing included a manifesto of sorts titled “sex consent and age discrimination” and described how children should be able to consent to sex.
Messer argued that because 15 years had lapsed before the women came forward, their statements were not credible.
Ultimately, the judge rejected that claim, saying that the amount of time did not detract from their credibility, and it was clear in their taped interviews that they were uncomfortable talking about “experiences that were extremely painful,” Prather said.
During the trial, Smith appeared relaxed, leaning back with his hands crossed over his stomach. After the verdict, Messer said Smith was “very shaken up by the verdict.”
The most serious charge, predatory criminal sexual assault, is a Class X felony and is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 4.