COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — More than a decade after he violently raped a woman in a lakefront park and skipped the country, Benigno Lopez is finally facing sexual assault charges, prosecutors said.
Lopez, 39, met his victim, who was 21 at the time, in April 1999 at a Chicago bar, where she was hanging out with a couple of friends, Assistant State's Attorney Kingsley Sawyers said. Lopez had drinks with the group and offered to give them a ride home.
But when he had his victim alone in the car, Lopez drove away without her friends, Sawyers said. He drove to the lakefront, pulling over at about 3600 North Recreation Drive in Lakeview.
The woman jumped out of the car and tried to call someone to pick her up, Sawyers said. But Lopez followed her, punching her and kicking her.
He then raped her and then drove away in his car, Sawyers said. The woman immediately ran to a nearby condo building and told the doorman she'd been raped, Sawyers said.
Lopez left the country to avoid arrest, Sawyers said, but authorities ultimately identified him in a Mississippi jail, where he was being detained on an unrelated matter.
A plumber living in Memphis, Lopez was extradited and appeared in Cook County court Wednesday. A judge set his bail at $50,000.