A Cass County man was found guilty of aggravated battery charges but avoided sexual assault charges in court Thursday. The jury trial of 54-year-old Kevin L. Ownbey of Ashland was heard over the course of four days in Cass County Circuit Court this week.
Ownbey faced seven counts in all, which included two class 2 felony counts of aggravated domestic battery, three class 1 felony counts of criminal sexual assault, and two class X felony charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault.
The charges stemmed from incidents over a purported three-day period in October of 2019 where Ownbey was accused of assaulting his then-live-in girlfriend, Amy M. Gotschall.
Ownbey was accused of strangling and sexually assaulting the victim without her consent and knowingly causing her great bodily harm, and sexually assaulting her with both his person and a clothes hanger. He was arrested in Springfield and booked into the Schuyler County Jail on October 9th, 2019, after Gotchall had been admitted to St. Johns Hospital.
The trial began with jury selection Monday morning and by 5:00 pm Thursday six of the seven counts were handed over to the jury for deliberation. Approximately 90 minutes later, the jury returned verdicts of guilty to the class 2 felony charges of aggravated domestic battery with strangulation and aggravated battery with great bodily harm.
The jury however found Ownbey not guilty on the four remaining charges, three for criminal sexual assault and one for aggravated criminal sexual assault. Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller says the results were disappointing but could have been worse. He says he does not know how the jury arrived at the verdicts they ultimately reached.
“What the jury does in deliberation is all confidential, so we have no indication of why they do what they do. But I believe the jury system we have is the finest system in the world. I’m disappointed with the not guilty [verdicts] but I respect the jurors’ decision. What they do is confidential.”
During the trial, photos of the victim’s physical injuries as documented in the hospital were shown to the jury that included multiple bruises, abrasions, burns, and puncture wounds.
The victim testified Thursday that Ownbey punched and kicked her, strangled her with both a belt and his hands, and burned her with a torch-style cigarette lighter over the course of the three-day period.
She said at one point she tried to leave the house but Ownbey caught her on the back porch and then beat her with the leg from a shower chair that was nearby and later pushed the hollow end into her leg and abdomen. The victim said she wasn’t fast enough to get away from Ownbey because of mobility issues she has with the left side of her body due to her having cerebral palsy since birth.
Photos also showed the victim had been scraped to the point of drawing blood multiple times with a dart and had the back of her ear cut from top to bottom with a kitchen knife. She also testified that Ownbey allegedly sexually assaulted her with both a clothes hanger and his person.
During cross-examination, Ownbey’s defense attorney Bart E. Beals of Chicago argued that the state had no physical evidence to corroborate the victim’s accusations of sexual assault occurring, such as that no evidence was collected or processed at the hospital or from the scene by the Ashland Police Department.
Miller says the lack of physical evidence likely led to the lack of conviction for some of the charges. “For the sex crimes, I would say that’s accurate. We had physical evidence in the aggravated domestic battery charge with the victim. But yes, most of the testimony that we heard over the course of the four days was eyewitness testimony.”
Miller says, however, even without a conviction on the sexual assault charges, Ownbey still faces the potential of serving a lengthy sentence in prison. “The aggravated domestic battery charges are class 2 felonies, and with his history, he would be extended term eligible. So it is a possible three to fourteen years and that would be served at eighty-five percent truth in sentencing.”
According to court documents, Ownbey has a prior conviction in Kankakee County in 1999 for a charge of attempted criminal sexual assault with a weapon in which he served 6 years in IDOC. He also was convicted on a charge of aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon of a 21-year-old victim in Kankakee in 2011 when he was 30 years old, and a charge of aggravated battery in 2019.
Ownbey has been required to register as a sex offender since the 1999 conviction, and as a sexual predator since 2011. Cass County Circuit Judge T.J. Wessel revoked bond on the two convictions and ordered Ownbey to remain held at the Sangamon County Jail pending his sentencing on May 5th.