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Union County man accused of sexually assaulting a child was a longtime foster parent

Bradley Wyant

Bradley L. Wyant, 48, of Marion, is shown here in this photo provided by the Union County Sheriff's Office. 

The Union County man indicted by a grand jury this month on seven felony counts of sexual assault and abuse of a child was for years a foster parent in Dongola who associates say cared for more than 40 children over 20 years.

Bradley Wyant, 48, most recently of Anna, faces four counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, all Class X felonies, and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, all Class 2 felonies, according to State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds. Wyant also lived recently in Marion.

The alleged victim in this case is a child under the age of 13, and was a relative of Wyant's girlfriend, officials said. According to his ex-wife, Wyant has not been a foster parent with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for a number of years, but Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel said law enforcement officials are digging into his past as part of their current investigation. He was arrested in October, and is currently at the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bond.

The charges against Wyant are not related to his time as a foster parent, but Harvel said: “We continue to investigate him. We are taking a look at his past. That’s part of the investigation.”

Edmonds said more charges may be filed “if and when that is appropriate.”

“With any case like this, any time there are additional victims, we would follow up,” Edmonds said. Both Edmonds and Harvel said they were limited in what they could say publicly about the case because the investigation is ongoing.

Bradley Wyant’s ex-wife, Billie Wyant of Dongola, said the two were married for about 19 years, and became foster parents in the early 1980s a few years after getting married. Billie said, because she could not have biological children, the then-couple decided to become foster parents.

She said the two probably cared for roughly 40 children, ranging from newborns to 18-year-olds, until their divorce several years ago. She could not recall the exact year of their divorce. During their time together, the couple  adopted two children, including a biological niece, Billie said.

Billie said she never knew of anything inappropriate going on during the time the children lived in her home, and said of the recent charges against her ex-husband, “I don’t think he did it.”

“We were married for almost 20 years and you get to know a person,” Billie said.

She said that there was one “incident” about a decade ago when the biological niece the couple adopted told state Department of Children and Family Services officials that Bradley Wyant “touched her.”

“It was proven by DCFS that he didn’t do that to her,” Billie Wyant said, adding that she believed the girl, around age 15 at the time, was “looking for attention.”

Brandi Jackson, 23, who lives outside of Atlanta, said she was one of the children under Billie's and Bradley’s care when she was growing up in Southern Illinois. Jackson, originally of Eldorado, said she was placed with the couple at age 12, and lived with them on and off for about three years, including during her pregnancy at age 13. Jackson said she was one of six children under their care at the time. 

Jackson described Bradley Wyant as a hard-working maintenance man who did his best to provide for her and the other foster children in the home. She said her foster parents also helped her locate her biological mother in Georgia, whom she eventually went to live with. 

She described the living situation as “cool” and said she was shocked by the charges.

“I was confused and shocked when I saw the post,” she said of the news item. “I was like, ‘Are you serious? That can’t be right.' I know him. … He was actually like my dad.”

A representative of DCFS said the agency does not disclose information about foster parents, including whether someone is or was a foster parent, in accordance with the law.

Wyant’s next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.

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