Man abducted 15-year-old, repeatedly drugged and raped her in basement apartment for nearly five months: prosecutors

CHICAGO — Prosecutors say a 15-year-old Chicago girl who accepted a ride from a stranger in December was drugged, kidnapped, and repeatedly raped by the man, who locked her inside his basement apartment for nearly five months.

Chicago police officers freed the girl last week after she found a piece of mail bearing the apartment’s address and called 911, officials said as they filed charges in the case.

Derek Swift, a 48-year-old man who has been arrested 52 times in his life, was detained as a safety risk by Judge Susana Ortiz.

The girl, who spent her 16th birthday in captivity, was walking near her South Side home in December when Swift pulled up and offered her a ride, Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord said, according to a transcript of his detention hearing.

After initially declining his offer, the girl relented because he kept asking. Once inside the car, Swift offered her alcohol and pills but refused to say what the drugs were, according to McCord. Again feeling pressured, the girl took the pills and then lost consciousness.

She woke up naked in the bedroom of Swift’s basement apartment, and he allegedly prevented her from leaving.

Derek Swift (Chicago Police Department)

“She remained in that apartment for the following months,” McCord said. The Chicago Police Department issued a missing person bulletin about the girl four weeks after she disappeared.

Month after month, Swift came and went from the apartment, bringing her food from a gas station and sometimes leaving her alone for days, according to McCord. He brought alcohol home and made her take more pills.

“When she would refuse to take the pills, he would grab her face and shove the pills into her mouth,” the veteran prosecutor alleged.

McCord said the apartment doors each had two locks, but the girl could only open one of the locks.

“Every time he came back in the apartment, he would, what she termed, rape her,” McCord stated. On two occasions, he forced her to take pregnancy tests, McCord said. Following her release, a test revealed that she is not currently pregnant.

Swift gave the girl a phone, which he used to check on her, but warned that he would kill her if she tried to leave and would kill anyone she tried to call, said McCord. He searched her phone when he came home to ensure that she had not made any calls.

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

Finally, on April 29, the girl saw an address on a piece of mail in the apartment and used the phone Swift gave her to call the police. CPD officers removed her from the apartment and took her to a hospital. A search of the phone showed no call activity other than between the girl and Swift, McCord said.

Swift surrendered to police hours after officers removed her from the apartment. He allegedly admitted to picking the girl up, although he believed she was 20 years old, and claimed that their sexual relationship was consensual.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Crawford, representing Swift during the detention hearing, said Swift initially picked the girl up because “he believed that he was giving her a place to stay after she had no other place to live.

While Crawford said the girl told Swift she was 20, McCord said the girl told him she was 16.

“Regardless of whether he thought she was 16, 26, or 46,” McCord argued, “it is irrelevant because the age is not an element” relevant to the charges filed against Swift, including criminal sexual assault by force and kidnapping.

Crawford also questioned why the girl did not call anyone sooner or leave the apartment.

“It is important when the police come, she tells them that she tried to leave twice,” McCord countered. “The first time he caught her, [he] stood over her with an open hand, struck her across the face.”

“The second attempt, he forcibly pushed her body against the wall; she did not believe that she had a way out,” she continued.

“She’s now a child who had been in this basement, fed pills, raped every day, and threatened that he would kill her, threatened he would kill her loved ones. She didn’t say anything, but how can she? She is a child. She is a child who was being traumatized in the most unimaginable way.”

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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