URBANA, Ill. -- A jury Wednesday found former University of Illinois football player Steven Feagin guilty of raping a student in 1995, a conviction that could send him to prison for as long as 90 years.
The crimes went without arrests for years before DNA evidence led police to Feagin in Florida, where he was arrested in 2008.
In the first of three Champaign County rape cases against Feagin, jurors deliberated for less than an hour before finding the 42-year-old guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault against the woman, who was then a 22-year-old art student. The woman, now a 39-year-old art teacher who lives in the Chicago suburbs, was raped in her apartment near campus in Urbana.
In court, according to The News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign, Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lazar said the victim helped police draw a sketch of her attacker that looked remarkably like Feagin. That and the "irrefutable science" of the DNA evidence left no doubt that Feagin was guilty.
The former Illini running back was arrested after DNA recovered from a 2007 rape in Florida matched Feagin, who then lived in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
But Feagin's attorney, Assistant Public Defender George Vargas, told jurors that there may have been problems with the manner in which the evidence was collected from the victim in the 1995 rape case.
Feagin was convicted of three separate acts against the woman and faces up to 30 years in prison for each. The remaining two cases, from 1993 and 1995, are pending.
Feagin was a student at Illinois from 1989-92. He was a prominent player, carrying the ball for 1,558 yards, 20th on the school's all-time rushing list.
In June 2008, Urbana police learned about the DNA match in Florida, the product of a check with a national database.
A retired Urbana police sergeant, John Lockard, went through old university directories and picked out Feagin as a potential suspect from among 73 students from Florida listed in the 1994-95 directory.
Florida detectives got a search warrant and obtained DNA samples from Feagin.