Two months after death, family of Brittany lashes out at local police
Two months after Brittany Wawrzyniak’s death, the family of the 18-year-old girl have broken their silence and are strongly criticizing the Worth police department for failing to keep them apprised of the investigation.
“We’ve got a dead 18-year-old girl with no information on how she died other than they state she was jumping out of a moving car on a drug buy. That’s ludicrous,” Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather, Earl Lane, said Tuesday.
Wawrzyniak’s mother, Rebecca Tully, is equally dismayed over the police department’s failure to inform the family of the investigation’s progress, but did meet briefly with Police Chief Martin Knolmayer on Monday afternoon.
“The [Worth police] chief basically told her she ought to go out in [her] car, climb in the back seat and jump out and see how it’s done”
— Earl Lane
“I feel like they were more polite with me because Brittany’s dad called (Worth Mayor Mary Werner),” Tully said on Tuesday.
Tully said she had no intention of returning to the police department following a Dec. 2 meeting with the chief.
Tully’s mother, Rebecca Lane and Earl Lane sat down on Tuesday with The Reporter to talk about the police department’s handling of the case.
“It seems like a direct slam to the family,” Earl Lane said of the police department’s refusal to share information about the case.
Knolmayer has refused to publically comment on the case, saying only that his department is the midst of an ongoing investigation.
“She wanted to know what was going. What was happening, who they interviewed,” Earl Lane said of the December meeting.
“They weren’t returning her phone calls. She finally got to make an appointment,” Rebecca Lane added. “She figured if she went in in person she might be able to get some answers.”
Tully brought a close friend to the meeting, who was escorted out at the chief’s request when she began to ask questions about the witnesses police had interviewed, Tully said.
Tully asked the chief how her daughter could have fallen out the car. The chief’s response shocked her.
“The chief basically told her she ought to go out in (her) car, climb in the back seat and jump out and see how it’s done,” Earl Lane said. “She was sick.”
“I was in complete shock,” Tully said. “How unprofessional can you be?”
Tully attended Monday’s meeting with her husband, Mike. She said the police still are unable to provide her with details of the investigation.
“They said they’re waiting for more information,” Tully said. (The chief) has said he’ll meet with us if we have more questions.”
Tully stressed that her daughter must be treated as the victim in this case.
“I don’t feel like the police are making it easy,” she said.
Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson the night of Nov. 8 at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue in Worth. She got into the backseat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam, prosecutors said.
Wawrzyniak, a Worth resident and Shepard graduate, began counting the pills while still in the back seat 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.
Johnson, of Peotone, was ordered held on $300,000 bond. He is charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
Tully said her daughter had no intention of purchasing drugs. Rather, the drug buy was a ploy to arrange a fight between Wawrzyniak’s friend and another girl, she said.
The family also does not believe Wawrzyniak jumped out of the car. They are pleading for anyone who witnessed what happened to come forward.
“Somebody’s got to know something,” Rebecca Lane said.
Lane and his wife believe Worth police are “stonewalling” because they are in over their heads regarding the investigation. The family provided police a compact disc containing text messages found on Wawrzyniak’s phone as well as inflammatory posts found on two Facebook pages created in her memory. Police have not responded to the family regarding the information, the couple said.
Rebecca Lane spends time every night scouring the Facebook pages looking for new information or leads about her granddaughter’s death. Why, she asked, can’t Worth police do the same.
Her husband, a former Hickory Hills alderman, said the police department’s lack of communication with the family is cruel.
He added that he has simple questions for the police chief:
“Where are you at with the investigation? What can you tell us, and why haven’t you communicated something with the family?”
The police department’s future action on the case is crucial. A member of the state’s attorney’s office told the family that additional charges cannot be filed without more work done by Worth police, Lane said.
“It has to start with the Worth police department,” Earl Lane said.
In addition to their frustrations with the investigation, Wawrzyniak’s family continues to mourn her death. Her mother has not returned to work and goes through days when she can’t even talk about the incident.
Tully returned to work and goes through days when she can’t even talk about the incident.
“It goes from day to day,” Rebecca Lane said. “It’s up and down. It’s hard for us to believe Brittany is gone. It’s heartbreaking. Brittany and I had a very close relationship. We had a very loving relationship.”