Zumbahlen Agrees to Negotiated Plea in Series of Child Sex Offenses

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Published on May 5 2014 11:39 am
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham resident James D. Zumbahlen has pleaded guilty to nine counts of child sex offenses in exchange for a prison sentence amounting to 25 years.

The 51-year-old Zumbahlen pleaded guilty to counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, as well as aggravated criminal sexual abuse during an appearance Monday morning in Effingham County Circuit Court.  The guilty pleas are to counts that were part of more than three dozen charges facing Zumbahlen for a 20-year pattern of abuse of young boys and girls, one as young as three years old.  All of the offenses indicate that all of the victims were younger than 13 years old.

Special Prosecutor David Rands of the State's Attorney's Appellate Prosecutor's Service said there was general agreement by those abused or their representatives to the outcome, but noted that some were dissatisfied with the length of time Zumbahlen will spend in prison.  Asked about that after the hearing, Rands said, "If it had happened to me, no amount of time would be enough."  He said the fact that some offenses were a part of the plea and others were dismissed is no reflection on the strength or weakness of a particular case; the cases made a part of the plea brought the prison term to 25 years, which was the length agreed to by both sides.

When asked about how the matter finally came to light, Rands said an initial complaint was investigated in 2005, but no charges were filed.  Another complaint was made by an individual in 2012 and as the investigation progressed, others came forward.  As to the lack of charges during the earlier investigation, Rands said, "These are very difficult cases to prove; I have nothing bad to say about the choices made then."

As to the offenses, Zumbahlen was given a 13-year sentence on one of the predatory criminal sexual assault of a child charges, and 12-year sentences on three other charges of that offense.  He was also sentenced to five years in prison on the five charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.  The 13-year sentence will be served consecutive to the other sentences that will be served concurrently.

Rands noted after the hearing that it's not a certainty that Zumbahlen will be released once his sentence is completed.  He said the Illinois Attorney General's Office will review the case to determine whether Zumbahlen should be judged a "sexually violent person" and be kept in prison.

In imposing sentence, Judge Dennis Middendorff spoke to the victims and their representatives present in court for the hearing.  The judge said he noticed that they had been referred to as "victims", but said he would "no longer call you victims, since you had the strength to come forward and to follow through" to the conclusion of the matter.

If Zumbahlen is released from prison, he will be on lifetime mandatory supervised release.  He also must register as a sex offender.  Zumbahlen does have 30 days to appeal the actions taken in Monday's hearing.