Woman Held Captive in Bad Romance: Cops

Internet date leads to threats, violence at hands of man with long rap sheet, authorities say

By Jeff Goldblatt
|  Thursday, Apr 7, 2011  |  Updated 3:00 PM CDT
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A downstate Illinois woman told police she feared for her life during the three days she was held captive by a man she'd met online.

A downstate Illinois woman told police she feared for her life during the three days she was held captive by a man she'd met online.

A central Illinois woman says she feared for her life during the three days she was held captive by a man she'd met online.

The mother of seven from the tiny town of Kenney, Ill., told police she met Robert "Bobby" McMath on the Internet site PlentyofFish.com.

In his bio, he labeled himself a "perfect gentleman," and said he was widowed and a store owner looking for a long-term relationship.

"My only motivation is to keep you happy," it said.

"He did everything right to gain her trust," said Det. Lester Rodgers of the Cook County Sheriff's Police.  "It's everything a woman would want; someone who's compassionate, someone who is working, has his own business, loves children, wants family, wants commitment.  He said all of the right things."

Their first face-to-face meeting came in March, six months after connecting online. She made the 150-mile trek toward Chicagoland to meet McMath, she told police, and things started off well.

They spent the weekend together at his cousin’s house in Ford Heights, where she told police they had consensual sex. But when Monday came around, she told McMath she wanted to head home.

That's when he snapped, she told police.

"He first grabs her and starts to choke her. He tells her she now has to worry about the most important thing in her life: her children. 'If you want to see your children again, then you’ll do everything I tell you to do,'" Rodgers said in relaying the story.

The woman said she went through three days of hell. She says he took away her debit card, her cell phone, beat her and held her captive.

At one point during her ordeal, she told police the 46-year-old McMath took her to the Cook County Forest Preserve's Sauk Trail Woods. 

There, Rodgers explained, McMath pointed to a post telling visitors to dial 911 for emergencies and told the woman it existed because officials often find dead bodies in the area.

"It was traumatizing for her, and she really didn't think she would get out alive," said Rodgers.

To save her life, the woman told police she decided to befriend McMath.  And then she got her break.

Three days into her captivity, McMath introduced the woman to friends at a Chicago Heights home as his future wife, Rodgers explained. McMath later let his guard down, and she swiped her car keys and escaped.

She drove directly to the Chicago Heights Police Department.

Sheriff's police last week issued an All Points Bulletin on McMath. He turned himself in on Monday morning and now faces one count of aggravated domestic battery involving strangulation and one count of unlawful restraint. Both are felonies.

He also faces two misdemeanors.

Police say that as smooth as McMath appears, he's a dangerous con and a known gang member with 22 prior arrests and 12 convictions, including a prior incident of detaining a woman against her will.

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