Cops rule Brittany’s death accidental but her supporters vow ‘it’s not over’
Rebecca Tully has struggled with myriad emotions during the six months since the death of her daughter, Britanny Wawrzyniak, but anger is not among them, she said.
Anger is the second of the five stages of loss grief outlined in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
“I still haven’t hit that anger part in any of this,” Tully said Tuesday as she talked about the Worth Police Department’s decision last week to close the investigation into her daughter’s death.
Tully has experienced a gamut of other emotions ranging from shock and sadness to disbelief and disappointment since Nov. 8, the day he daughter died after being ejected for a moving car near the Worth boat launch, near 115th Street and Beloit.
She’s come close to venting her rage at the police department and elected officials who she believes treated her daughter more like a criminal than victim.
She’s also upset that she and her family did not receive more respect during the investigation, although she understood that the details of the probe could not be shared.
But last week’s news, delivered to Tully at a meeting at the Worth police department, threw her for a loop.
Just a few weeks earlier, Worth Mayor Mary Werner said that it would be months before DNA results would be
final and the investigation complete. She defended the work of the police department and said when a formal report was issued they would be vindicated.
“The death of Brittany Wawrzyniak has been determined to be accidental,” Chief Martin Knolmayer said in a news release issued last Thursday.
Family members have vowed that the investigation into Wawrzyniak’s death is far from over.
“They’re not out of the woods yet,” said Earl Lane, Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather.
He suggested that a civil lawsuit against the village is a possibility, though Tully would not comment on that potential action.
Tully described last week’s meeting as brief and said Knolmayer did not attend.
“I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to lies,” she said. “It was a very brief meeting.”
Her request for her daughter’s belongings was denied because the cases against Eric Steven Johnson and Lilyanna Arboleda remain open, police said. She also filed a formal request for the documents related to the investigation but has told her request will be denied, she said.
Prosecutors say Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch, got into the back seat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam.
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.
Johnson has not been charged with anything related to Brittany’s death.
Arboleda, 18, of Chicago, was charged with conspiracy to commit battery for her role in the incident.
“It’s not over,” Tully said. It may be over as far as (the village) is concerned, but it’s not over,” Tully said.
The case has led to heated and occasional profane comments made by Brittany’s friends and family toward the village board, the police and the mayor in the past two April board meetings. The first board meeting, held April 1, was moved to the gymnasium of the Christensen Terrace Centre to accommodate more than 200 people. People entering the building were patted down by police because of a social media threat.
The second meeting, April 15, was held at Village Hall and not all spectators were allowed in because of space. While that confrontation was shorter and less volatile, there was still some anger in the air.