HANCOCK COUNTY — A Chicago man, who investigators believe to be a teacher, faces charges of child molesting and several other felony counts after being accused of meeting a 12-year-old boy in Hancock County and sexually assaulting him.
Pedro Ibarra, 47, is charged in Hancock County Superior Court 1 with a Level 1 felony count of child molesting; a Level 3 felony count of promotion of child sexual trafficking; a Level 5 felony count of child solicitation; two Level 5 felony counts of child exploitation; a Level 5 felony count of criminal confinement; and Level 6 felony counts of possession of child pornography and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The most severe charge — Level 1 felony child molesting — comes with a maximum sentence of 40 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Hancock County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a residence in Fortville on the night of June 22 for a report of a runaway juvenile. As deputies were speaking with the parents, their 12-year-old son returned home. The boy said he had been picked up at his residence by a middle-aged man whom he had met online, and was transported in the man’s SUV to a motel in Greenfield, where he was sexually assaulted.
The man later took the boy home.
After reporting the incident to law enforcement, the boy went to Riley Children’s Hospital for a sexual assault examination, according to the affidavit.
Based on the boy’s detailed description of the motel room and its location, deputies went to the motel. A white SUV was parked nearby with an Illinois license plate returning to Ibarra. The affidavit also notes that the phone number the boy said the man used to communicate with him also returned to Ibarra, and that motel staff confirmed Ibarra had entered a room there.
Search warrants were obtained for the motel room and vehicle, and Ibarra invoked his right to remain silent when taken to the sheriff’s department for questioning, according to the affidavit.
Motel surveillance video shows the SUV arriving the night of June 22 and a man and boy exiting the vehicle, followed by them exiting the motel room about an hour later and leaving in the SUV before the vehicle returned about 20 minutes after that.
In an interview with Zoey’s Place Child Advocacy Center staff the following day, the boy said he communicated online via video chat with the man before they met. The boy said he thought the person he was communicating with was around 16 years old and didn’t realize until he came to pick him up that he was much older.
The boy later told law enforcement that the man showed him a video on his phone of someone the boy believed to be the man having sex with another child around 11 or 12 years old, and that the man also recorded their sex act with him in the motel room.
Ibarra appeared in Hancock County Superior Court 1 for his initial hearing on Wednesday, June 30, represented by lawyer Arie Lipinski appearing via teleconference, and entered a preliminary plea of not guilty. Judge D.J. Davis set a cash bond of $500,000.
Before bond was set, Hancock County chief deputy prosecutor Aimee Herring called the boy’s father as a witness, who said his son told him he used a laptop to communicate with the man. The father said he did not see Ibarra or his vehicle the night his son returned after the initial runaway report. The father asked Davis to keep Ibarra in custody for as long as legally possible, and that he was concerned for his son’s and family’s safety.
“No human should ever have to go through what my son did,” the father said.
Detective David Wood with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department testified about finding Ibarra in the motel room and that the investigation revealed he has two residences — one in Chicago and another in a Chicago suburb. Wood also said the search of the SUV led to the discovery of a Chicago Public Schools laptop and that the website for a school in that district lists a Pedro Ibarra as a fifth-grade teacher.
Wood said several apartment keys were also discovered during the search.
When making a case for what Ibarra’s bond should be, Herring said Ibarra’s access to multiple residences made him a high risk for flight and not appearing at future court hearings. She and Wood said Ibarra’s access to children made him a danger to the public.
“We are potentially increasing the victim pool tenfold,” Herring said.
Lipinski argued Ibarra has never been convicted of a crime and the accusations against him are based on uncorroborated statements. Ibarra has a good job and good reputation in his community, Lipinski continued, adding having access to multiple residences doesn’t make him more or less of a flight risk.
Before making his decision on the bond, Davis referred to the video surveillance and indicated while there is still plenty of debate left to be had over what happened in the motel room, he questioned why anyone would enter one with someone else’s child in the middle of the night. He also cited the boy’s and his family’s fears in the matter.
“There’s a lot of safety factors concerning to me,” Davis said.
Ibarra remained in the Hancock County Jail as of the Daily Reporter’s deadline Wednesday. He is due back in court for a pretrial conference at 9 a.m. Sept. 1.