Convenience store clerk sexually assaulted runaway who asked him for food, prosecutors say

CHICAGO — A 15-year-old boy who ran away from home after arguing with his mother stopped into a downtown 7-Eleven to ask for food, only to be sexually assaulted by the store’s cashier, prosecutors claim.

Those are some of the details revealed in court this week as prosecutors argued to have Bharath Simha, 21, detained to await trial. Judge David Kelly granted the detention motion.

Upset with his mother, the boy left home last Thursday evening, December 7, and walked for three or four hours before walking up to the 7-Eleven at 4 East Jackson around 9 p.m., officials said. Simha buzzed the boy in.

Prosecutor Tilesha Jackson said the boy stopped at the store because he was hungry, and he asked Simha if he could do some work, such as cleaning, in exchange for food because he had no money.

Simha agreed and gave him a cookie and directed the boy to the store’s single-stall bathroom, Jackson continued, according to a transcript of the detention hearing.

The boy went into the restroom, thinking that Simha wanted him to clean it in exchange for food, Jackson said.

Instead, Simha allegedly grabbed the boy’s shoulders and forced him to his knees inside the bathroom. Simha exposed himself and forced his penis into the boy’s mouth for “a few seconds,” Jackson alleged.

The teen cried as it happened, and Simha allegedly placed $6 in the boy’s hand.

Bharath Simha | Chicago Police Department; Google

Jackson said the boy fought Simha off and tried to run out of the store, but Simha chased him and blocked his path. Simha struggled with the boy and told him not to tell anyone, Jackson continued, but the boy managed to escape.

Once he was out of the store, the boy ran until he saw a Chicago police car and then reported the attack to the officers, Jackson said.

Simha initially denied that he assaulted the boy, but then changed his story to say the boy tried to rob the store, said Jackson. He allegedly told the police that the store didn’t have security video, but investigators found the video and showed him images from the footage.

This story is made possible by contributions to the Cook County Courtroom Transparency Fund.

Jackson said Simha changed his story several times during interviews with detectives. After initially claiming nothing sexual happened, he allegedly said something sexual did happen, but it was the boy’s idea. That story evolved again and again, according to Jackson.

She said he refused to submit a DNA sample.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Crawford argued that there are “serious questions” about the boy’s credibility. There is no physical evidence, and whatever happened inside the restroom is “unclear,” Crawford continued.

He also objected to the amount of time Simha spent in custody before seeing a judge—more than 60 hours—and questioned if Simha’s statements were made in duress after being locked up for more than two days.

Jackson, the prosecutor, claimed that all of Simha’s statements were made within the first 48 hours. A sexual assault evidence kit was completed at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Those test results are pending.

Simha grew up in India and earned an engineering degree there, according to Crawford. He has worked at the 7-Eleven for about six months.

Prosecutors charged him with criminal sexual assault during the commission of a felony and unlawful restraint.

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About Tim Hecke 375 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com