HP resident reports attack by sex offender

A screenshot of the Illinois sex offender database showing the state’s information on Bruce Holmgren as of Nov. 13, showing that he lived “out of state” in California.

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff writer

On Sept. 23, a man named Bruce Holmgren attacked Orin Fraser, a congregant at the Vineyard Church of Hyde Park, raving at him as he was picking up tree branches outside the church, as first reported by CBS 2 News.

The church, 5333 S. Greenwood Ave., had known of Holmgren for a decade. After the assault which Fraser reported to police, the victim researched Holmgren and learned that he had been convicted in 1995 of raping a child in Minnesota.

“After the assault, Orin reported to us that (Holmgren) had made previous threats, which, prior to an actual assault occurring, had seemed more nonsensical, in terms of threats towards him and threats in general,” said Community Life and Mission Pastor Amy Tucker in a subsequent interview. “But after he acted on this threat with violence, Orin brought the other issue to our attention as well.”

“We immediately responded by informing the congregation and hiring a security guard to be present for our Sunday services as a matter of precaution,” she said.

Tucker said she was not absolutely sure of Holmgren’s whereabouts since the assault, but she knew he had been in Hyde Park on occasion since Sept. 23: “He has been spotted by various neighbors and things through the weeks.”

The Illinois sex offender registry, however, lists Holmgren as living in Fairfield, California, between Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Holmgren’s listing on the registry resulted in a state lawsuit settled in 2014. While the Cook County Circuit Court had sentenced him to prison for not registering within five days of establishing residence in Illinois, the appeals court reversed the finding, ruling that the state had failed to prove its case.

Holmgren had listed a Minnesota address in 2006; Illinois had charged that, on or about May 19, 2009, he had knowingly failed to register with the Chicago Police within five days of establishing a residence in the city.

During a June 2, 2009, interview with a Chicago detective, Holmgren acknowledged signing the form swearing his name and Minnesota address, but he said he signed it under duress and had not registered in Chicago “because he felt he was unjustly convicted in Minnesota for the crime that required him to register.”

At that point, Holmgren was reportedly living at 54th Street and Ellis Avenue; during cross-examination, he said he was “going back and forth between Minnesota and Illinois” but did not say how long he had been living in Hyde Park.

The circuit court found that there were no files showing Holmgren registered his residence in Chicago, even though he lived and worked there, and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.

But, citing precedent that the state must prove “corroborating evidence independent of the defendant’s admission” regarding where and for how long he had lived at a location, the appeals court found that the state “failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he failed to register as a sex offender within five days of establishing a residence” — the only evidence of such being the detective’s testimony that he lived in Hyde Park, when Holmgren did not say how long he had lived here.

“Despite the state’s contentions to the contrary, implications and inferences are insufficient to uphold a conviction where one of the elements of the offense was wholly ignored,” the court wrote.

Speaking for “a church in the community that cares a lot about this community wanting to be a welcoming and safe space for people (and) families,” Tucker said she wants authorities to do their due process jobs with Holmgren so that the church and community are safe from him.

“Our hope is that there be a just and safe solution to this situation for all parties involved,” she said. “Finding some sense of clarity and resolve in this situation, I think that could go a number of different ways. And we obviously have to defer to the authorities in terms of how they would follow it up.”

The Illinois Attorney General’s office did not return request for comment.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com