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‘I know who my daughter is’

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Grieving Worth mother disputes Cook County prosecutor’s claim of pill purchase during night of her daughter’s death

 

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Photo by Jeff Vorva. A mourner brings a cross that was placed in a memorial for Brittany Wawrzyniak during a vigil on a cold Monday night in Worth.

 

  Rebecca Tully sat in the living room of her Worth home Monday morning struggling to understand why anyone would harm her daughter, Brittany Wawrzyniak.

“What happened was pointless,” Tully said. “I think there’s a lot we don’t know.”

Twenty four hours later, as she made last-minute preparations for her daughter’s wake, Tully fervently disputed the scenario that led to her daughter’s death, which was outlined by Cook County prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Wawrzyniak, 18, died Friday after she was ejected from the backseat of an alleged drug dealer’s car after buying pills from him.

Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue. She got into the backseat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam, prosecutors said.

Photo by Jeff Vorva  A photo of Brittany Wawrzyniak peaks out among the flowers at a memorial close to the spot near a boat launch in Worth where she died on Friday.Photo by Jeff Vorva A photo of Brittany Wawrzyniak peaks out among the flowers at a memorial close to the spot near a boat launch in Worth where she died on Friday.The prescription drug is used to treat panic and seizure disorders, according to medical experts.

Wawrzyniak began counting the pills while still in the backseat as Johnson drove away. She opened the door of the moving car, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said.

She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.

Tully wholeheartedly rejects the scenario, which was presented at Johnson’s bond hearing Monday at the Criminal Courts building in Chicago. Johnson, of Peotone, was ordered held on $300,000 bond. He is charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

“The stuff that they’re saying is false,” Tully said. “The fact is, she didn’t buy any pills. She didn’t have any money. I know who my daughter is.”

Photo by Jeff Vorva.  Hundreds showed up at a candlelight vigil for Worth’s Brittany Wawrzyniak Monday night.Photo by Jeff Vorva. Hundreds showed up at a candlelight vigil for Worth’s Brittany Wawrzyniak Monday night.Tully said her daughter was at the boat launch to support a close friend, who planned to fight another girl.

“There’s conflicting stories,” said Mike Tully, Wawrzyniak’s stepfather. “How could anybody be so evil to do that to a girl?”

Tully and her husband are not alone in their thinking.

Several of Wawrzyniak’s friends have posted their doubts about the prosecutor’s allegations on the RIP Brittany Wawrzyniak Facebook page, which had nearly 7,000 “likes” on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s not finalized. It’s an ongoing investigation,” said Tully, who plans to meet with investigators today for an update.

Worth Police and the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force have offered few details regarding the incident. Tully, however, said the police “are doing everything they can.”

“The (Worth Police) chief said, “Be patient. It could take weeks,” Tully said. “If anybody knows anything, please come forward.”

Attempts to contact Worth police were unsuccessful.

In the meantime, Tully agonizes over the cause of her daughter’s death.

“You wonder how your child spent the last few moments of her life,” Tully said Monday as her seven-year-old twins played nearby. “I’m numb. I’m in a state of shock. She didn’t hang out with (Johnson). “I’ve never heard of him.”

Tully, an eight-year-resident of Worth, said she’s overwhelmed by the support and generosity shown by friends and neighbors.

Hundreds braved cold weather Monday night to honor her daughter’s memory at a candlelight vigil held near the boat launch. Another large crowd attended her wake on Tuesday at Hann Funeral Home in Bridgeview. Funeral services were held Wednesday at New Hope Church in Alsip. Interment was private.

As of Tuesday afternoon, friends and family raised $8,800 to pay for the funeral services. Donations are still being accepted at www.giveforward.com.

Tully and her husband remembered Wawrzyniak as a young girl with ambitions and a great sense of humor.

“She was funny,” Mike Tully said. “She wanted everybody to love her.”

A 2013 graduate of Shepard High School, Wawrzyniak was attending the Illinois Institute of Art and wanted to become a music producer. She was learning to play guitar and worked part-time with her mother in the food services department at Hyatt Regency McCormack Place.

“She had goals,” her mother said.

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Photo by Jeff Vorva. Patrick Wawrzyniak, left, and several friends and family members pray for his daughter, Brittany, who died Friday.

 

Wawrzyniak’s loyalty was best exemplified after she broke her leg sliding into home plate during a Shepard girls’ softball game.

“She still went to every single game to root her friends on,” her mother recalled.

In addition to her mother and step-father, Wawrzyniak is survived by her father, Patrick Wawrzyniak; 10 brothers and sisters, grandparents and several nieces and nephews.

Worth police are asking that anyone with information about the incident contact them at (708) 448-3979.