A suburban man who was convicted of sexually assaulting an elderly woman after breaking into her home was sentenced Friday to 90 years in prison.
Frank H. Mendez, 53, of Mount Prospect, was convicted by a jury in May of home invasion and aggravated criminal sexual assault stemming from the 2015 attack on a 97-year-old woman at an assisted living community in Arlington Heights.
In handing down what’s effectively a life sentence, Cook County Judge Steven Goebel said Mendez chose the "weakest and most vulnerable" victim and "shocked the moral conscience of the community."
"She was completely defenseless," Goebel told Mendez. "Your actions are reprehensible and despicable, pure evil."
Goebel sentenced Mendez to 60 years for the home invasion and 30 for the sexual assault. He will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence.
Mendez declined to give a statement during the hearing and used a Spanish interpreter. But before being led away to prison, Mendez stood up, pointed at the judge and said in English, "God will get you."
The hearing was marked by an emotional victim impact statement read by the victim’s daughter-in-law. She said her mother-in-law recovered from her physical injuries but was psychologically scarred by the attack and died four months later.
Before she died, the woman was able to testify at a preliminary hearing and said Mendez repeatedly struck her as she struggled with him. Her statements were introduced as evidence at his trial.
"The cruelest part was that she spent the twilight of her life afraid," the daughter-in-law said. "She always thought her attacker would come back and seek revenge."
The incident occurred at the Church Creek Senior Living facility along Central Road. The victim was described as a healthy woman who lived alone in an apartment at the facility.
Prosecutors said Mendez entered the apartment by using a knife to cut out a window screen and that the victim fought back fought during the attack. A security guard knocked on her door when her wrist alert went off and Mendez fled, leaving behind bloody fingerprints and other evidence, prosecutors said.
At Friday’s hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Ed Maloney argued for a lengthy sentence for Mendez, noting that the woman had bruises on her arms, face and shoulders.
"The defendant is not someone who should be on the streets," Maloney told Goebel. "He certainly is a danger to the community."
Mendez’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joe Gump, argued that Mendez had only a misdemeanor conviction for public indecency on his criminal record and should be shown leniency. Gump also introduced a mitigation expert who testified that Mendez had problems with alcohol and depression and would not be likely to repeat his offense if he received psychiatric treatment.
"He spiraled into alcoholism and depression," Gump said. "It’s not an excuse for his actions, but it is an explanation."
Goebel said the attack appeared to be premeditated and showed planning. He noted that Mendez told police he entered another home earlier on the day of the incident, confronting a woman because he wanted sex. Goebel also said Mendez was arrested near another assisted living facility weeks later when police recognized him from a description.
"This court has no doubt that you knew it was an assisted living facility when you went inside and sexually assaulted and beat up (the victim)," Goebel said. "You have done tremendous damage to the community and the people of the state."
George Houde is a freelance reporter.