Bond has been set at $ 5 million for a man arrested and charged with the murder of an Illinois social worker who was stabbed to death during a home visit on Tuesday.
Benjamin Reed, 32, was arrested on charges of first degree murder, aggravated bodily harm and unlawful duress for allegedly stabbing and killing Diedre Silas, 36, an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services of the State.
Silas reportedly performed a welfare check on at least one of the children living in the house when she was attacked by Reed, Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said on Wednesday.
Campbell said authorities arrived at the house Thursday afternoon and broke into the house after seeing blood near the door, where they found Silas dead inside.
Police obtained a search warrant, which enabled them to track down Reed hours later at a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a cut to his hand before being taken to Sangamon County Jail.
Six children of undisclosed ages were also found in the home, although Campbell said he was not sure any of them saw the incident that led to Silas’ death. He also said they were in preventive detention at the time of Wednesday’s press conference.
Authorities believe at least one of the children is linked to Reed and that several adults likely lived in the house, Campbell said.
Thayer, the town where the house was located, is about 23 miles south of Springfield.
Sangamon County State Attorney Dan Wright said the conviction could put Reed in prison for life if a court found the conduct in Silas’ death “exceptionally brutal, heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty.” .
But at a press conference Wednesday night, Wright parried questions about why Silas was visiting the house, why she went there alone and whether there was a suspected threat there, saying the answers ” are sufficiently relevant to this investigation that it is not appropriate to answer these questions. “
It frustrated Silas’ family members, including his father Roy Graham, 61, who brought Diedre from Jamaica at the age of 10. He saw the married mother of two develop her love for helping children right from high school, as a mentor. schoolchildren and volunteer for Sparc, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Why are you really attacking my daughter? I don’t understand why you would do this,” Graham said after the press conference. “I know she would beg for her life. Why? She hasn’t come to talk to you… It’s brutal, mischievous, hardcore.”
DCFS director Marc Smith said the last investigator killed on duty occurred about four years ago. Smith said the agency trains its staff on how to approach a variety of situations, including entering a volatile environment. Staff members decide to go alone, in pairs or to call for police protection, he said.
“In this tragic circumstance, the family we were there to help had a negative response to our presence,” Smith said. “We do not shirk responsibility. We take responsibility for all of our staff, as well as the children and families we serve. We will continue to work, we will continue to improve our policies and procedures as much as possible.”
Silas had just joined the department in August after working in behavioral health for seven years at the Department of Juvenile Justice, according to a statement from Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents DCFS employees.
“This tragedy is a stark reminder that frontline DCFS employees like Deidre perform demanding, dangerous and essential tasks every day, often despite inadequate resources and enormous stress,” said AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.