Trial Begins for Hillcrest Man Accused of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child in Oregon

Oregon – The jury trial for a Hillcrest man accused of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child commenced with the selection of jurors. Jody T. Willis, 47, is facing charges related to the assault of a girl under the age of 13 between 2006 and 2008. His arrest in March 2021 followed an investigation conducted by the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department in August 2020.

Since his arrest, Willis has been released on a $250,000 bond. Alongside the initial charge, he also faces two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, alleged to have occurred during separate time periods in 2007-2008 and 2013-2014. Willis, formerly a Rochelle firefighter, appeared before Judge John “Ben” Roe alongside his legal representation, Russell Crull and Eric Arnquist of Rochelle. Assistant State’s Attorneys Matthew Leisten and Heather Kruse were also present.

The process of selecting a jury commenced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and took the entire day to complete. Throughout the questioning process, 19 potential jurors were excused by either the judge, defense, or prosecution. A panel of 45 people had been summoned, and 35 reported early in the morning. Ultimately, the jury consists of seven women and five men, with two alternates.

Testimony in the case will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Ogle County Judicial Center in Oregon. The trial is expected to span three days. On January 11, Judge Roe sealed the case file after a motion by Crull argued that certain information, including pre-trial defense motions in limine, should not be made available to the public.

Motions in limine, which refer to evidentiary questions that must be determined before the commencement of a trial, are common practice in these proceedings. They provide a means for the judge to decide whether specific evidence should be presented to the jury. By sealing the case file, the defense sought to maintain the privacy and integrity of the trial.

The start of this trial marks a significant juncture in the legal process, as the jury now has the responsibility of considering the evidence presented and reaching a verdict. The community closely watches the proceedings, as the outcome will impact the lives of those involved in the case.