River Forest woman allegedly sexually assaulted with sword

Escapes from home and calls 911 after reportedly being held against her will

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By Jean Lotus

Staff Reporter

River Forest police said a 43-year-old River Forest woman was physically and sexually assaulted by a male acquaintance in the late hours of March 13.

According to police, 20-year-old Kenneth W. Merrills, of Chicago, unlawfully restrained, beat and sexually assaulted the woman inside her residence in the 8000 block of Lake Street.

She was able to escape from her residence and, at 7:45 a.m. on March 14, called 911. The woman reportedly told police the man was still inside her residence and armed with a long-bladed knife.

"[The weapon] was something between a sword and a large hunting knife with about a two-foot blade," said River Forest Deputy Police Chief James O'Shea.

O'Shea confirmed that Merrills allegedly used the sword to both threaten the woman and sexually assault her. She was taken to a hospital, where she was determined not to have life-threatening injuries and released.

Police discovered that at the time of the incident Merrills was on probation for an unrelated drug offense. At a March 15 hearing, he was ordered held on no bond related to that case. According to police, his bond for the River Forest case was set at $15,000. Merrills is expected to appear again at the Maybrook courthouse for a preliminary hearing on March 21.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office approved charging Merrills with aggravated criminal sexual assault, a Class X felony, and unlawful restraint, also a felony. If convicted of a Class X felony, Merrills could face up to 30 years in prison.

"We applaud the courage of the victim to call 911, especially after such a violent attack," said O'Shea.

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