Family raises questions into alleged abuser’s release from prison
SHERMAN, Ill. (WCIA) — A teenage girl drowned and her adult alleged abuser survived after the couple plunged into a golf course pond last week.
On Sunday night, October 27th, Kaylee Mehochko and Gage Patterson drove into a 20 foot-deep pond on the Rail Golf Course in Sherman.
Patterson’s name has not previously been reported in connection with the fatal incident. Authorities concealed his identity in their initial reports to the press.
According to the Sangamon County Coroner, Patterson managed to escape the passenger seat, while Mehochko drowned in the submerged vehicle.
Now, her family is grappling with hard questions, including how police and the court system ever allowed Patterson to get in the car with her in the first place.
Court records show 16-year-old Kaylee Mehochko and 20-year-old Gage Patterson had a troubled history. Patterson is still currently facing three felony charges – three of which are Class X – for allegedly beating Mehochko last summer.
Mehochko spent two separate stints in the hospital.
Mehochko’s family confirmed she was in a romantic relationship with Patterson, who was four years her senior. The legal age of consent in Illinois is 17.
Her family believed she was safe, and thought Patterson was not going to get out of jail for a long time. That’s why it came as such a shock when they found out he was in the car with their daughter when it plunged into the pond.
“I didn’t know that he was out,” her cousin Lindsay May said. “None of us knew that he was out. We were just wondering why she was in Springfield in the Sherman area. My mind didn’t go there.”
Her grief-stricken uncle James May was also in disbelief.
“When I told my sister that, she collapsed,” he said. “She could not believe that he was out of jail, or that he was with Kaylee.”
Kaylee’s mother, Crystal Mehochko, was granted an order of protection from Patterson in September. That court order was also intended to protect Kaylee and her 6-year-old sister Emily.
“My sister would have been watching much, much closer to Kaylee’s actions, to her ability to have a car and drive anywhere, if she had known that he was not in jail where he was supposed to be.”
Patterson’s initial bond was set at $500,000 dollars in July. But in late September, that bond was reduced to $5,000 — with a 10 percent bail — on the condition that he checks into a rehab facility.
Adam’s County State’s Attorney Gary Farha called it a treatment bond. He said the judicial system in Adams County often tries to steer people towards rehabilitation rather than a prison cell, but he says this incident in particular will cause his office to rethink that policy.
“It is a standard sort of policy we have, particularly with young people,” Farha said. “We will have to reexamine this case in particular, that leads us to understand that things can go wrong, particularly when they are being released from a treatment at such a young early stage of treatment.”
“There are lots of things in this case that went wrong, but we do have to examine that policy,” Farha said.
Patterson checked into rehab at The Salvation Army ARC in Springfield at the end of September. According to Farha, Patterson had input in where he went for his rehabilitation. The policy at Salvation Army ARC allows residents to leave the facility after 30 days.
“We knew it wasn’t a closed facility,” Farha said. “But it was our understanding that they could not have visitors until a certain point of the six-month treatment.”
The timeline of Patterson’s release raised questions with Mehochko’s uncle.
“How can he not know that the rehab program that they are sending these people to allow them to be out on the streets during rehab?” May asked.
According to May, the judge presiding over Patterson’s case ensured Crystal Mehochko that she would be notified when or if he was ever released. But the family said they received no such warning. They claim they had no idea that Patterson was even let out of jail – let alone that he was released from a rehab facility.
Following the accident, Patterson was taken into custody at the Sangamon County Jail for violating the order of protection. He posted bail on Thursday afternoon, on October 31. Since he was only charged with violating the order of protection, his bond was set at 3 thousand dollars with a 300 dollar bail.
Farha said his office plans to revoke the deal with Patterson to go to rehab, but would not elaborate any further.
“There is definitely going to be a very swift reaction by us,” Farha said. “There is not any point of us telling him what we are going to do.”
For her family, any legal action or policy change is too little, too late. They not only blame Patterson for whatever led to the car crashing into the pond, but also the system that allowed him to get in a car with Kaylee.
“Although I am very, very, very angry with Gage through this ordeal,” James May said, “I am equally as angry at the system.”
The investigation into the fatal incident is still ongoing. Illinois State Police took over the case from the local Sherman police department on the night of the incident, and said they would not release any details at this time.
The Mehochko family is waiting on that investigation, along with the complete coroner’s report, for the answers to those questions.