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Bob Rakow's B-Side: Case Closed? Seriously? Not for this family

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The release last week of the Worth Police Department’s report on the death of Brittany Wawrzyniak indicates that the investigation is closed.

But don’t tell Wawrzyniak’s family that. For them, the report may have been an interesting read, but it left many questions unanswered, including, “who killed Brittany?”

The family won’t rest until that question is answered, though it seems they’ll have to do the legwork themselves in order to find the answer. I’m not sure what their next step is, but they’re weighing their options.

Additionally, the family wonders, why was Courtney Hyzy, who was in the SUV from which Brittany jumped or was pushed, never interviewed by police. It’s a worthwhile question.

The police report summarizes in great detail numerous interviews conducted with those who were at the Worth boat launch on Nov.8—the night Brittany died—but not Hyzy. That strikes me as odd.

At the very least, Hyzy was a witness. Shouldn’t she have been interviewed like everyone else gathered at boat launch on that fateful night?

Indeed, Hyzy was in the SUV from which Brittany jumped or was pushed. She was much closer to Wawrzyniak in the seconds before her death than anyone else at the boat launch. It seems she could lend something to the investigation.

According to witnesses, Wawrzyniak allegedly conspired with her friend, Lily Arboleda, to lure Hyzy to the boat launch so that Arboleda could fight Hyzy. Arboleda, the report said, was seeking revenge for damage Hyzy supposedly had done to her car, the report said.

This is not new information. The family revealed the scenario shortly after Brittany’s death.

Hyzy arrived at the boat launch in an SUV driven by her boyfriend, Eric Johnson, according to reports.
Brittany got into the SUV under the ruse of buying the prescription drug Clonazepam from Johnson, the report says.

This, too, is information reported on shortly after Brittany’s death.

Brittany apparently was counting the pills when Arboleda, who was hiding nearby, ran toward the vehicle, the report said. Arboleda was reaching for the door handle of the SUV when Johnson sped away. It’s unclear if she opened the door before Johnson drove away.

When Johnson turned out of the parking lot onto 115th Street, Brittany either jumped or was pushed out of the vehicle, according to the report. There wasn’t enough clear-cut information from eyewitnesses to help police determine if she was pushed or jumped. Witnesses could only offer details about how Brittany hit the ground; no one saw how the door opened or how she exited the SUV.

 It’s tough to imagine someone jumping out of a speeding SUV, but again, the report leaves open the possibility.

Jumped or pushed. Horrible either way, but if I’m the family, I’d sure want to know which if for not other reason than to gain some closure. You see, that’s what the family does not have, and the report was no help. It contains a lot of information, but it does not answer the family’s ultimate questions: who is responsible for Brittany’s death, how and why did she die and will anyone be held responsible?

Ask the family, and they’ll you the police failed because they did not at least pursue answers to those critical questions.

Johnson ultimately was charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and is serving a 3 1/2 –year prison sentence. Arboleda, of Chicago, has been charged with conspiracy to commit battery for her role in the incident.
Brittany’s family has maintained from the start that she did not do drugs. They were angry that some media reports portrayed her death as a drug deal gone bad. The family’s contention was bolstered when Wawrzyniak’s toxicology report came back clean.

The clean report doesn’t prove that Brittany didn’t intend to use the pills she allegedly purchased from Johnson. Then again, she might have been buying them for someone else, or maybe she truly was setting up a fight. It she was, she went to great lengths to make the phony drug deal seem legitimate. Either way, she paid with her life.

Additionally, Brittany’s family is less-than-thrilled with information in the report culled during a February interview with a Palos Heights woman who knew Wawrzyniak.

The family doesn’t understand why police interviewed her, as she was not a witness at the boat launch. They also can’t figure why she voluntarily showed up at the police department three months after Wawrzyniak’s death.

Perhaps police were open to talking to anyone who could offer potential information about Brittany. I doubt it’s good policing to tell someone during a death investigation, “We’re not interested. Go home.”

The woman told police that Brittany “was a good person but she did have her faults.” the report said. She added that Wawrzyniak did drugs and ignored advice about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Could be true, could be entirely bogus. The clean toxicology report would favor the family.

The family has portrayed the woman as a “nut” who Brittany was forbidden to associate with. They contend the woman is untrustworthy and what she told police was entirely false.

But the woman did offer a suggestion to police that seemed to have merit. She said she had tracked Hyzy to her sister’s residence in Evergreen Park and advised police to obtain a DNA sample from Hyzy and compare it to any DNA evidence found on Wawrzyniak. The report does not indicate that the suggestion was followed.

So here we are, seven months after Brittany Wawrzyniak’s death. I often wonder if a reporter sitting in my chair years from now will write the story about the big break in the case that solves the whole thing. Will someone who was at the boat launch reveal something that forces police to take another look? Will the family’s personal inquiry produce a valuable lead? It’s hard to know, but we not have heard the last of this case.