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By Devin Rose
Rob Gaskill, 63, a River Forest resident who, with his wife, has fostered 75 children over 20 years, was arrested Thursday and charged with sexually assaulting two juvenile victims over a 13-year period.
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office approved two Class X felony charges against Gaskill. The charge is predatory criminal sexual assault against a child. The incidents allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2009, according to a statement from River Forest police.
River Forest Police Sgt. Marty Grill said the female victims are now 19 and 21 and do not reside in River Forest. Three adopted children and two foster children who had recently been in the Gaskill home have now been removed and shifted to other homes, said Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe. Deputy Police Chief Craig Rutz said the alleged victims had not been taken from the home but could not say whether or not they lived there previously.
Gaskill voluntarily accompanied local police and officials from the West Suburban Enhanced Drug and Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) Task Force from his home to the police station, where he was arrested. Rutz could not say if Gaskill made any statements to police at that time. Bond was set at $50 million during a bond hearing Saturday at the Maybrook courthouse. Gaskill will face a preliminary hearing on Feb. 9.
"It took us quite a while to figure out whether this was completely valid or not," said Rutz, noting that the victims came to the police station to report the incidents a couple of weeks ago, but he could not give details about their relationships to Gaskill because of the ongoing investigation.
In addition to his department, Rutz said the Cook County Sheriff's Department, WEDGE, and DCFS are involved in the investigation.
When reached Tuesday morning, Gaskill's attorney, Kelly Seago, said she had no comment on the case.
Gaskill is the former publisher of the West Group of Pioneer Press newspapers, which includes Oak Leaves and Forest Leaves. After leaving Pioneer, he served for several years as publisher of The New World, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. More recently, Gaskill, together with his wife Mary, have operated a foster care service called Tapestry from their home in River Forest.
An attempt to reach Mary Gaskill at the couple's Ashland Avenue home was unsuccessful Tuesday morning.
Since May 2011, Gaskill had been employed part-time as marketing director at an off-site location for Lydia Home Association, a child welfare agency in Chicago, according to a statement from Executive Director David Anderson. The statement said he has been placed on leave.
Gaskill was also a member of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, said Senior Associate Pastor Gerald Hiestand. He coached more than 60 seasons of youth sports, including basketball, soccer, baseball and softball, according to an online resume website.
In 2009 Wednesday Journal named the couple Villager of the Year runners-up in recognition of their work as foster parents. At that time, the Journal reported that the family had 11 children: four biological, six adopted and one foster.
The recognition followed a feature story in the Journal about the relationship between two of the foster children in the Gaskill home. A teenage son with autism had sponsored a fundraising run to raise awareness for a life-threatening illness which afflicted his 3-year-old foster sister. That young girl died a few months after the story ran in the Journal.
In the Journal's 2009 article, Mary Gaskill talked about the pledge she and her husband made shortly after their marriage that they would open their home to foster children.
"I have always, always loved children," she said, "and for me, it's the innocence of them and the need for close adult mentoring and modeling and advocating and love in this busy, crazy world."