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Former Scout leader's bail raised

A prominent former local Boy Scout leader documented a trail of sexual relations with underage boys dating back decades, according to testimony Friday by a Lee County detective.

Charles "Chuck" Bickerstaff, 56, of 1612 Aurora St., Dixon, is in the Lee County jail facing charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old Ogle County boy four times between July and March.

On Friday, Bickerstaff had a hearing to have his $2.5 million bond reduced. Instead, testimony by Lee County Detective Sgt. David Glessner led Circuit Judge John Payne to raise Bickerstaff's bond to $3.5 million based on a motion by Lee County State's Attorney Paul Whitcombe.

Bickerstaff worked for the Boy Scouts of America from 1973 until he retired about a year ago. He served most recently as district executive director of the Blackhawk Area Council, which serves Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties.

Glessner's testimony Friday gave details on the contents of at least six 120-page journals found in Bickerstaff's home. Investigators believe the very detailed journals were written by Bickerstaff, and Bickerstaff did not deny the journals were his, Glessner testified.

Although Glessner has not yet read all of the journals, which date back to 1989, he has identified by name at least three additional underage boys besides the Ogle County teen who appear to have been sexually abused by Bickerstaff, according to the writings. The journals mention other incidents, but investigators are unsure of the age of those involved in the sexual encounters.

Glessner read one excerpt from the journals that detailed an explicit sexual relationship between the author and a 13-year-old boy during the late 1990s.

In the journals, the author describes an attraction to teenage boys, Glessner said. The writings show little remorse for Bickerstaff's apparent sexual relationships with underage boys, but do show a concern for getting caught by police, Glessner said.

The early journals also reference either fantasies or sexual activities from the 1970s, Glessner said. The journals also describe attraction to various young males the author had contact with on a day-to-day basis but did not have a sexual relationship with, including those met through Boy Scouts, his church, the Sterling Noon Rotary Club and children from his neighborhood, Glessner said. Besides the Boy Scouts, Bickerstaff was a longtime member of the Sterling Noon Rotary Club and served as president for one year.

The detective said he had not yet finished going through all of the writings, and that his investigation could take months.

"I wouldn't say we've even made it to the middle yet," he said.

Whitcombe told the judge the case against Bickerstaff could expand significantly. So far, he faces four counts each of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison for each assault count and up to seven years in prison for each count of sexual abuse.

"(Bickerstaff) led a life of perversion and sexual decadence that has ruined young lives for decades," Whitcombe said, before asking that Bickerstaff's bond be raised.

On the stand, Bickerstaff appeared calm as he talked about his finances, which add up to about $300,000. At one point, Bickerstaff said he would be happy to turn over his passport - if it hadn't already been seized by police - although he'd prefer giving it to a third party.

Bickerstaff's attorney, Rolfe Ehrmann, argued his client has no criminal record and does not pose a flight risk.

Bickerstaff is set to next appear in court May 9 for a preliminary hearing.

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