Aging behind bars: The 10 oldest inmates in Illinois

Jun 19, 2017

Like many states across the country, Illinois’ aging prison population is putting a growing financial strain on the state’s correctional system.

Of the roughly 43,000 inmates housed in Illinois Department of Corrections as of March 31 2017, about 7,300, or 17 percent, were over the age of 50, compared to 6 percent in June 2005.

While recent criminal justice reforms have led to a 12.6 percent reduction in the state’s prison population between the first quarters of 2015 and 2017, the percentage of elderly inmates continues to rise.

The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform notes this trend is true for both new admissions and offenders who return to prison for violating the conditions of their parole.

“The increasing age of inmates admitted to Illinois prisons over time is seen at every level of offense severity, but especially those convicted of murder,” according to the Commission.

In fact, a report published by the Commission in December found that there has been a significant increase in the number of inmates over the age of 65 just in the last decade.

“In 2005 there were 278 prison inmates age 65 or older and 100 inmates age 70 or older. In 2015, there were 790 inmates age 65 or older and 304 inmates age 70 or older, an increase of 184 percent and 204 percent, respectively,” the report found.

As PEW Charitable Trusts noted in a report last year, the consequences of aging prison populations for states “is money, more and more of it every year.”

“Health care for aging prisoners costs far more than it does for younger ones, just as it does outside prison walls,” according to an analysis by PEW. “Corrections departments across the country report that health care for older prisoners costs between four and eight times what it does for younger prisoners.”

Corrections officials told PEW that criminal justice reforms alone “will do little to decrease the population of older prisoners who are serving mandatory sentences or have committed violent crimes.”

So just how old are the oldest inmates in Illinois? Take a look.

10. Walter Wilson, 84 

Walter Wilson

  • DoB: March 11, 1933
  • Offense: Attempted murder
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Pinckneyville
  • Current admission date: May 23, 2014
  • Projected discharge date: April 21, 2047

From the Chicago Tribune (March 3, 2011):

Awaiting trial on a 2011 attempted murder charge, 80-year-old Walter Wilson decided to take matters into his own hands before the court system could decide his fate, Cook County prosecutors said Sunday.

So Wilson called the victim — the same woman he shot in 1989 — more than 25 times and told her to drop the charges despite a court order prohibiting him from contacting her, prosecutors said. She refused, so he said he would “get everybody that’s involved,” according to police reports[…]

9. Simon Nelson, 85

Simon Nelson

  • DoB: Oct. 2, 1931
  • Offense: Murder
  • Committing County: Winnebago
  • Parent institution: Graham
  • Current admission date: June 16, 1978
  • Projected discharge date: Oct. 16, 2079

From the Rockford Register Star (June 6):

The number of online petitions signed against parole for a man who killed his six children in the 1970s has topped 2,400.

Simon Peter Nelson, 85, who was convicted of killing his six children in 1978, is making his 19th bid for parole this summer. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is expected to make a decision on July 27, and electronic petitions can be submitted until July 21.

8. Kenneth Turner, 86

Kenneth Turner

  • DoB: May 5, 1931
  • Offense: Sexually dangerous person (SDP)
  • Committing County: Sangamon
  • Parent institution: Big Muddy River
  • Current admission date: March 20, 1996
  • Projected discharge date: SDP

7. Ernest Cornes, 86 

Ernest Cornes

  • DoB: April 15, 1931
  • Offense: Armed robbery, rape
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Shawnee
  • Current admission date: Feb. 11, 1954
  • Projected discharge date: Indeterminate

From the Chicago Daily Tribune archives (Jan. 27, 1954):

A 22 year old ex-convict, who raped four women and robbed them, their escorts, and two other men, was sentenced to 75 years in jail yesterday on one rape indictment and 10 years to life on each of two of the robbery charges[…]

6. Adriaan Vlot, 86 

Adriaan Vlot

  • DoB: Feb. 21, 1931
  • Offense: Murder
  • Committing County: McHenry
  • Parent institution: Dixon
  • Current admission date: May 24, 2005
  • Projected discharge date: Life

From the Chicago Tribune (March 12, 2005):

A McHenry County jury on Friday night convicted Adriaan Vlot of murdering his estranged son-in-law, essentially ensuring the 74-year-old Texas man will die in prison.

The jury deliberated nearly three hours before delivering the first-degree murder verdict against Vlot, who had testified that the shooting of Philip Goldstein on Nov. 5, 2003, in Crystal Lake was an accident. He also was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon and endangering the lives of his two grandchildren, who were with their father during the shooting.

And the Kane County Chronicle (July 27, 2004):

WOODSTOCK — McHenry County is suing Adriaan Vlot and his wife to recover $147,000 spent on reconstructing Vlot’s jaw and face as he awaits trial for the murder of his son-in-law.

The lawsuit comes as no surprise because McHenry County Board members said publicly shortly after Vlot’s surgery in April that they would pursue any insurance or assets for reimbursement. The cost of the surgery outraged some county board members and county residents.

Vlot, 73, is awaiting trial on charges alleging that he shot and killed his son-in-law, Phillip Goldstein, in an apartment parking lot in Crystal Lake. Police say Vlot shot himself shortly after Goldstein was killed.

5. Richard Hanus, 86

Richard Hanus

  • DoB: Dec. 24, 1930
  • Offense: Criminal sexual assault
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Pinckneyville
  • Current admission date: Dec. 31, 2015
  • Projected discharge date: Sept. 13, 2017

From CBS 2 Chicago (Dec. 19, 2007):

A 76-year-old serial sex offender from Burbank has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars after admitting to the criminal sexual assault of two 15-year-old girls.

Richard Hanus was on probation for sexually abusing one of the girls when he was arrested two years ago.

He pleaded guilty to having sex with the Burbank girl in 2001 at his home in the 7800 block of Monitor Avenue when she was 11, court records show.

4. Hector Varela, 86 

Hector Varela

  • DoB: Aug. 9, 1930
  • Offense: Aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under the age of 13
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Jacksonville
  • Current admission date: April 10, 2017
  • Projected discharge date: April 2, 2021

3. Richard Duda, 87 

Richard Duda

  • DoB: June 18, 1930
  • Offense: Predatory criminal sexual assault
  • Committing County: DuPage
  • Parent institution: Dixon
  • Current admission date: March 5, 2009
  • Projected discharge date: Feb. 26, 2024 (three years to life)

From the Daily Herald (Feb. 27, 2009):

An elderly man likely will take his last breath behind bars for molesting a Bensenville child in an act caught on videotape.

Richard A. Duda, 78, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for predatory criminal sexual assault. The Melrose Park man pleaded guilty Jan. 8 to the Nov. 16, 2006, crime against the 4-year-old girl.

The child’s mother secretly set up a nanny camera after becoming suspicious. Duda is seen on the tape molesting the girl while she tries to watch a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon playing in the background.

Duda faced six to 30 years in prison. In meting out the punishment, DuPage Circuit Judge Blanche Hill Fawell said it was obvious after viewing the tape that it wasn’t the first time Duda molested the child.

2. Roger Oliver, 89

Roger Oliver

  • DoB: June 9, 1928
  • Offense: Sexually dangerous person
  • Committing County: Sangamon
  • Parent institution: Big Muddy River
  • Current admission date: April 2, 1999
  • Projected discharge date: SDP

1. Curtis Metcalf, 93

Curtis Metcalf

  • DoB: Nov. 30, 1923
  • Offense: Murder
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Lawrence
  • Current admission date: Sept. 30, 1983
  • Projected discharge date: Life

From the Chicago Tribune (Aug. 3, 1983):

A South Side man who claimed he was a prophet of God was convicted Tuesday of killing a Chicago Heights man in a quarrel over a dice game. A jury in the Markham branch of Cook County Circuit Court deliberated for two hours before convicting Curtis Metcalf, 59[…] for the fatal stabbing of Roosevelt King[…}

At the time of King’s slaying, Metcalf was on parole after serving eight years for the murder of a South Side man[…] According to Assistant State’s Attorney Charles Boskey and Jack Hynes, Metcalf became angry when the other players teased him for losing money, stabbed King once in the chest, then chased him and stabbed him in the back.

 

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