Friday, May 23, 2008

Death brings a sad reminder of a tragic injustice, 31 years ago

A false accuser has died of cancer. Sadly, thirty-one years after the lie that made her infamous, her story is a common one: a lie about a rape that never occurred to cover up consensual sex; an innocent young man arrested and convicted on the basis of her lie; finally, she recanted. Thirty-one years later, these same stories, repeated with cookie-cutter redundancy, keep coming. Funny, there is no indication here that Ms. Webb ever served a minute behind bars for her little "mistake."

Woman at the center of false rape allegation dies

By Times Staff and Wire Reports
Thursday, May 22, 2008
CHICAGO

Cathleen Crowell Webb, the woman who in 1977 accused a man of a rape that never occurred, died of cancer last week.

David Webb, Crowell Webb's husband and a former Homewood-Flossmoor High School classmate, said the 46-year-old school receptionist died of breast cancer Thursday in their home in Harrisville, N.H.

On July 9, 1977, a Homewood police officer saw Crowell Webb near the former Washington Square Mall at the intersection of Halsted Street and Ridge Road. Then a 16-year-old student at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Crowell Webb told police she was approached by three men in a car, one of whom tore her clothes, raped her and scratched letters into her stomach with a broken beer bottle.

Police took Crowell Webb to a Hazel Crest hospital to gather evidence. Later, from a photo lineup based on a fabricated description of her attacker, she eventually singled out Gary Dotson, a then-22-year-old Country Club Hills resident.

Later that year, police arrested Dotson, who was charged with kidnapping and rape. Dotson was convicted based on Crowell Webb's testimony and forensic evidence such as hair samples that prosecutors argued matched the defendant's.

But in 1985, after confessing to her pastor that she lied about the crime, Crowell Webb admitted to making up the entire story because she had consensual sex with her boyfriend at the time and believed she may have become pregnant. She also said she borrowed the idea for the rape alibi from a book she'd recently read titled, "Sweet Savage Love."

Charges against Dotson were dropped in 1989. He was pardoned by then-Governor George Ryan in 2002.