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Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: It might be next winter before we hear cops' side of Brittany story

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

They came from near and far – some from Michigan and Florida – to yell at the Worth cops and call Mayor Mary Werner a “b----.’’

Team Brittany was furious on Tuesday night.

Team Brittany was looking for answers, justice and respect Tuesday night.

Team Brittany let four month of raw emotions out at Tuesday night’s village board meeting. There were roughly 200 people who showed up and some screamed out insults at the mayor, police chief and board members. Some asked for the mayor and police chief to step down.

What do the mayor and police chief have to say?

Nothing.

They can’t.

They say there are two sides to every story.

For us folks in the newspaper racket, we try to provide both sides to every story we can. We try to be fair and just.

If a reporter does a controversial story and both sides agree he or she was fair, that’s a solid story.

If a reporter does a controversial story and both sides are mad at him or her, that’s usually a sign that story was good, too.

Then there are stories like the tragic death of Worth teenager Brittany Wawrzyniak, where one side of the story is told and the other is not. That makes for an imbalance that unfortunately cannot be avoided.

Three people know for sure what happened in the back seat of a car on Nov. 8. One is dead. Two are alive.

Prosecutors came out firing, claiming that Brittany met a dude by the name of Eric Steven Johnson near the boat launch in Worth to buy some pills. She was counting the pills while Johnson was driving away and she opened the door of the moving vehicle and was ejected and struck the pavement.

Family members dispute that story and in the last couple of month have been trying to get to what they believe is the truth and doing their own investigating. They believe she was pushed out and there were no drugs involved. They have been critical of the Worth cops for what they consider is a lack of information, and some family members have likened them as Barney Fifes, referring to the incompetent deputy on the “Andy Griffith Show.” They also believe that a witness in the car was let free because of a relationship with a member of the Worth police force.

That’s their side of the story.

The Worth cops have said nothing to the media. Werner said Tuesday that talking publicly about it could jeopardize the case.

That’s not surprising. Police officials rarely share information on investigations with the media unless they are using us as bait to try to nab someone or have news that they nabbed someone. This is as true in Worth as it is in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City.

Some cops anonymously leak information to the press to get their side of the story out. Sometimes it is with a wink and a nod from their superiors. That can be risky, though. In Joliet, someone leaked information to a Patch reporter about a sensitive case and he ran with it and no one could figure out where the leak came from.

The reporter, Joe Hosey, was grilled in a courtroom by a judge and has been threatened with some jail time if he doesn’t cough up his source. That’s serious stuff. If that leaker is ever caught, he is in some monster-sized trouble.

Who knows what evidence the cops have to confirm or deny the family’s arguments? A lot of this could involve wrinkles such as DNA and forensic  testing and other parts which could take months to figure out. This isn’t TV where it’s all wrapped up in a tidy package by the end of the one-hour show.

Werner said it could take another 8 to 10 months.

So the cops need to be given some benefit of the doubt even if they are being closed-mouth about it. That’s unavoidable.   

This family is passionate about getting to the bottom of this story and you can’t blame them for that. As they continue to find out more information, the family is going to be more than willing to share it and we will be more than willing to listen and more than willing to call the cops and other village officials for comments and more than prepared for more “no comments.’’

The cops aren’t there to appease the family.

The cops aren’t there to appease the media (darn it).

The cops’ job is to find out what actually happened in the back seat of the car that day.

And it will take some time before we all find out.

Stay patient.

It could be cold and snowy again before the truth comes out.

 

HEADLINE – Get out the popcorn

In the next couple of months, we will have some new people writing stories and features for us as we plan to bring in some fresh blood with college interns.

Starting a little early for us is Tony Pinto who will be doing a variety of things for us but is cutting his teeth doing movie reviews for our O and A section. We are calling the feature Pinto’s Popcorn Picks.

He’s a Palos Hills resident attending Governor’s State University and makes his debut this week with a review of the new Muppets movie.

We hope to run his work as consistently as we can throughout the spring and summer until he goes back to school. Enjoy his reviews.