Screaming for answers

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Brittany’s family and friends slam mayor and police
chief, as officials forced to stay quiet on teen’s death

Emotions boiled over at Tuesday’s Worth page-1-color-2-abd-a-half-col-top-right-photoWorth Mayor Mary Werner, speaking in bottom photo, and the village board listened for an hour as citizens. including Rebecca Tully, above, criticized them and the police in the handling of the cause of death of her daughter, Brittany Wawrzyniak, during Tuesday’s board meeting. Photos by Jeff Vorva.Page-1--Color-2-and-a-half-top-left-photoVillage Board meeting as friends and family of Brittany Wawrzyniak demanded answers from village officials about the five-month investigation into the 18-year-old girl’s death.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner took the brunt of the anger, accusations and name-calling from an angry crowd that grew more infuriated as the night wore on and the mayor repeatedly said she could not talk about the case.
“We need to know that you have confidence in your police department,” a supporter shouted. Others called Werner “a cold-hearted woman” “a heartless b----” and demanded that she and Police Chief Martin Knolmayer either quit or be fired.
More than 200 people packed the gym at the Christensen Terrace Centre, 115th Street and Beloit Avenue, which served as an alternate location for the meeting to accommodate the large crowd.
Supporters walked to the center from a nearby makeshift memorial dedicated to Wawrzyniak, located across the street from the center. When they entered the building, they were searched for weapons after a post on the RIP Brittney Facebook page threatened violence at the meeting.
Wawrzyniak’s mother, Rebecca Tully, and other supporters, said they understood that Worth police cannot not comment on details of the investigation. However, they do not believe the family has been treated during the investigation, she said. She also commented to the board that the members were rolling their eyes during Brittany’s supporters’ comments.
“We are upset about the way we have been treated,” said Pat Wawrzyniak, Brittany’s father.
Rebecca Lane, Wawrzyniak’s grandmother, also chastised the village board.
“To slam my granddaughter with the reputation as a drug user—shame on you. Shame on all of you,” Lane said. “Your reputation in Worth is worthless. That’s the reputation your police department has.”
Tully said she’s dissatisfied with the numerous unanswered questions surrounding her daughter’s death, which occurred Nov. 8 when she was ejected from a moving car near the Worth boat launch, 115th Street and Beloit Avenue.
“Was she pushed? If so, who pushed her? Was she pulled? If so, who pulled her? Did she jump out? If so, why?’’ Tully asked. “Why did the investigators wait four months to contact the people who called 911?
“Why have the investigators been treating us, her family, all along like we’ve done something wrong. Brittany is the victim not the criminal. We just want to know what happened,” Tully said. “There have yet to be any charges associated with the death of Brittany.”
Werner defended the police department, saying officers have spent hundreds of hours interviewing people and examining phone records and Facebook postings. Critics in the crowd shouted that it was hundreds of wasted hours.
“A thorough investigation does take a lot of time,” Werner said. “I cannot give you information. I cannot answer questions.”
Neither Police Chief Martin Knolmayer nor any of the village trustees commented during the portion of the meeting devoted to Wawrzyniak, which last about one hour.
Werner added that police have met on several occasions with Wawrzyniak’s mother and father to update them on the status of the investigation.
“I’m sure that everyone who has taken time to come here tonight would not want us to do anything that could possibly jeopardize either the criminal case of the criminal investigation,” Werner said.
She added that misinformation in the media and on Facebook has led to “a lot of the frustration for everybody that is involved in the situation.” She did not, however, attempt to clear up any perceived misinformation surrounding the case.
Werner said the case isn’t expected to be closed for eight to 10 months.
“It’s actually the state’s attorney’s office that brings charges. Our job is to investigate, to gather the evidence and the facts that will support any type of criminal charge,” Werner 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.
They also said 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.
She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.

‘You are my heroes’

  • Written by Kelly White


Tearful mother drives more than three hours to thank Hickory Hills policemen

Marcie Ordway travelled more than three Page-1-2-col-policeHickory Hills police personnel Rocco Marciano, Mark Benaitis, Scott Sodaro and Charles Hobart await receiving Medal of Honor awards from Marcie Ordway and Chief Alan Vodicka. Photo by Hickory Hills Police Department.hours from Galesburg to Hickory Hills just to thank four policemen from the city.


Ordway and her two-year-old daughter, Cosette, came to last Thursday’s city council meeting grateful that telecommunicator Rocco Marciano and police personnel Charles Hobart, Mark Benaitis and Scott Sodaro had major roles in the lifesaving responses they took to search, find and rescue Cosette after she was given an overdose of medication in a West Des Moines, Iowa, hotel room in January.
Marcie was reduced to tears when she said, “[Cosette] would not be standing and playing here today if it weren’t for you. Thank you. You are my heroes.”
The four policemen were on hand to receive presentations for their roles but were unaware the appreciative mother and daughter would be in the council chambers.
“I could see the shock on their face when they saw Marcie walk up with Cosette,” Hickory Hills Police Chief Alan Vodicka said, “Knowing they had no idea they would be here tonight really meant something to them, and Marcie felt very strongly about being here for them.”
On Jan. 18, the Hickory Hills Police Department was informed that Cosette’s father, Byron Ordway and Cosette were missing from his temporary residence in Hickory Hills. A relative told police he had recently attempted suicide.
Byron and Cosette were entered in the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System as missing persons. For a few days, there was concern over the little girl’s well-being.
Through a coordinated effort between Hobart, Benaitis and Marciano making a contact ping through Byron’s phone, West Des Moines Police were contacted and conducted a well-being check on Byron and his daughter at a hotel. The West Des Moines Police indicated they had made contact with both Byron and Cosette and appeared to be fine.
At the time, both Byron and Cosette were removed from LEADS as being reported missing and this incident was considered closed, police said.
But two days later, the relative told Sodaro that she received additional information from Byron via email the night before in which he sounded suicidal. Both subjects were again entered into LEADS as missing and endangered. Marciano requested another ping from AT&T of Byron’s phone to determine their current location.
This information revealed he was still at the same location in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Hickory Hills police said they put in another request to the West Des Moines Police Department to check on the pair.
Byron and Cosette were found in the same hotel room as previously, police said. But according to a Sergeant from the West Des Moines Police Department, Byron was found deceased due to an overdose of medication and Cosette was unresponsive but breathing.
Police said Byron intended to take his daughter’s life through the same means. Cosette was taken to Blank Children’s Hospital in West Des Moines, where she was placed on a ventilator and she was suffering from seizures.
Marcie traveled to West Des Moines to be with her daughter and was fearful of the possibility her daughter would die but Cosette pulled through and was healthy enough to make the trip Thursday with her mother during the emotional meeting with the Hickory Hills police.
The four policemen earned medals of honor presented by the chief, Marcie and Cosette.
Each officer received a form of a department commendation and a ribbon to be worn on their uniform.
“Had it not been for the coordinated efforts of these officers, I don’t think I would be making [a] statement as to Cosette’s recovery today,” Vodicka said. “As chief of police, I am extremely proud of these members of our department and I praise their life saving efforts.”
Hobart was promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant later on during the council meeting by Vodika. Hobart was hired on to the Hickory Hills Police Department in 1994 and promoted to Sergeant on Feb. 1, 2006. During his 19-plus years with the department, he has served in the capacity of field training officer, firearms instructor, tactical officer, juvenile officer, detective, supervisor of the Department of the Special Response Team, supervisor of the Motorcycle Unit and coordinator of the Field Training Officer Program.
“It’s his dedication in the department, and events like Cosette’s that prove he more than deserves this promotion,” Vodika said.
Officers Joe Roscetti and Michael Franks were also promoted.


Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: In this case, Lipinski deserves a fair shake

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Just shake the man’s hand.

That’s all I ask.

Even though Dan Lipinski ran uncontested for the Democratic 3rd Congress slot in the March 18 primary he was still out in the public meeting and greeting voters as they walked in and out of the polling places.

One stop was at the Orland Park Sportsplex, where he spent close to an hour standing around in the morning chill as more people were there to exercise than people who were exercising their right to vote.

For the most part, people were nice to the guy.

Most shook his hand. Some stopped by to talk. A few old-timers had nice words to say to him about his father, William. A few went out of their way to tell him what a great job he was doing. One man, Orland Park’s Joseph Mutholam, talked with the Congressman and then posed for a picture with him.

Even Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, who also is the Orland Township Republican committeeman, had a handshake and some cordial words for the Democrat. 

But there are always a few rotten appleheads to spoil the bunch.

When one of the voters marched by and Lipinski stuck out his hand and introduced himself, the guy barked “You’re on the wrong ballot!” and kept on walking. Lipinski had a look of resignation and a little bewilderment on his face after that. It was an awkward moment.

Some gave him a dismissive wave and tried to ignore him. Another guy mumbled something about pro-choice. But this handful of people wouldn’t shake his hand. He’s seen and heard worse, I’m sure, but it’s still rude and people should be embarrassed for acting like that.

I know there are people outside of the polling places representing politicians and they can be as annoying as telemarketers when handing out propaganda to people. I get that.

I know that some voters are busy and may have to get back to work and need to go in and out of the polling place and don’t have a lot of time to talk. I get that, too.

There are people who don’t like Lipinski. There are people who don’t like Democrats. There are people who are confounded by his stance on Obamacare. That’s fine.

But you have your congressman live in the flesh right in front of you and you can’t shake his hand? This is an important guy who is a mover and shaker in Illinois and in Washington. He’s a man who easily beat seven opponents in the prior five elections.

If you don’t respect the man, at least respect the position.

Unless the guy broke into your house, kicked you in the privates and punched your dog and scared your kids, you at least owe the man a handshake when he sticks his hand out to you. It’s common courtesy.

 So next time you see a high-level political leader who wants to say hello to you, I beg you to just shake hands with the man.

It’s not all that hard.

HEAD – Wave to the man in the pink bra

My favorite press release comes from a group called the 2nd Basemen, hawking a guy who will ride his bicycle from Chicago to Los Angeles along Route 66 to raise money for breast cancer awareness.

He will be wearing a pink bra.

The fact that his name is Dusty Showers helped put it over the top for laughs.

Mr. Showers will start this cup-ricious trek in Libertyville on June 1.

His people claim that Showers is one of “the most recognizable names in the world breast cancer’’

I guess we all have to be known for something.

He once made a bike trip from Tampa to LA on a bike to raise money. He was also on Oprah’s TV show. By the way, since Oprah bought her own network, does anyone watch her anymore? Showers also did some other stunts, including jumping out of a plane in a pink bra.

OK, I’m done poking fun at the guy. I’ll help him out a little by publicizing his plea for sponsorship.

According to his release, he is planning to stop in 20 major cities and hold 10 fundraisers along Route 66.  He is seeking sponsors in the way of monetary funds and major items needed for the trip.

Sponsorship packages are available. For more information, contact Kevin Worthy (I guess that makes this a worthy cause, right?) by phone at 630-749-811or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Palos Hills is talkin’ about the Webb boys

  • Written by Kelly White

Despite two aldermen trying to put thepage-1-COLOR-2-col-sidsThe old Sid’s site in Palos Hills will become a Webb Chevrolet dealership later this year. Photo by Jeff Vorva. brakes on a goodwill gesture, the rest of the Palos Hills city council steered a clear path for a Webb Chevrolet dealership to come to town. 

The council voted 7-2 last Thursday to grant the dealership a special-use permit for the newly purchased property located at the old Sid’s property at 11164 Southwest Highway to park vehicles before the business opens.
Aldermen Martin Kleefisch and Joan Knox (1st Ward) voted against the permit, citing a potential inconvenience to neighbors. Alderman A.J. Pasek was absent.
“All of us are anxious to see this property utilized in a healthy business way,” Kleefisch said. “However, I feel residents may want their voices heard on this matter, concerning the temporary use of the property.”
Knox agreed.
“Residents are concerned with what kind of business is going up behind their houses. They should be made aware of what is going to take place prior to it happening.”
Mayor Jerry Bennett suggested the drawing up of a agreement upon which Webb Chevy would be allowed to temporarily use the location as a special-use zoned property to store the vehicles until meeting with the Planning and Zoning Board, then begin construction and eventually open for business. City Attorney George Pappas will draw up a temporary ordinance permitting the special-use and allowing Webb to begin moving cars to the location immediately.
“Basically, all the company is asking for is to park cars there,” Bennett said, “They are a family-owned company with a good name and reputation. I think we should give them a chance.”
“I understand the aldermen’s concern,” William Hansen (3rd Ward) said. “But they already purchased the property. These are businessmen, showing long-term commitment.”
The company’s general manager, Jerry Roberts, appeared at the meeting. Webb purchased the B2, or commercially-zoned piece of property, three weeks ago, assuming it was a special-use property capable for storing cars currently unavailable for purchase, according to Roberts.
Roberts told the council the company is in an emergency situation, with the lease expiring at the end of the week at a temporary storage unit with nowhere to store the vehicles.
“The property cannot be used to store these vehicles until it is switched over to a special-use property,” Roberts said.
Roberts is planning to store 200-300 new cars at the Palos Hills location. His company also plans construction at the former Sid’s property, including replacing the existing privacy fence with a new fence and landscaping.
Roberts requested a temporary special-use permit to which Webb Chevy will pay the city of Palos Hills $1,000 a month in order to store the vehicles at the location until the construction is complete and the location opens for business.
Roberts and his lawyer, Joe Splain, requested a 12-month deadline on the temporary license; however, Roberts assured the council the dealership will be open for business at a much sooner date.
“We are hoping to even be open as soon as 150 days from now,” he said. His plan is to start moving cars immediately upon the approval of the special-use permit.
There will be no alteration to the property until he meets with the Planning and Zoning Board in three weeks to discuss construction plans to take place on the property.
The family-owned Webb Chevy holds a strong consumer base at its location, 9440 S Cicero Ave, and the company is hoping to carry on this representation in Palos Hills.
“We are here to create jobs, create property tax revenues and create sales tax revenues within the city of Palos Hills,” Roberts said.
The city will obtain one percent of all Webb Chevy’s sales tax revenues.

Chef Kate

  • Written by Claudia Parker

EP’s Bradley has a huge following on the library circuit

PAGE-1-COLOR-4-col-throwEvergreen Park’s Chef Kate Bradley, tossing some pizza dough in the air, is a mainstay at various libraries in the area, teaching people of various ages the fun and fine art of cooking. Photo by Jeff Vorva.When Evergreen Park’s Kate Bradley isn’t whipping up Boston crème pies, she’s out running, hoping to qualify for the next Boston Marathon.
After all, a girl has to keep moving to balance out all the sampling she does in the kitchen.
Bradley, who is known to many as Chef Kate, has been an avid runner since high school. She’ll be running the Illinois Marathon April 26. It will be her fifth marathon and if she runs it in 3 hours and 45 minutes or less, she can qualify for the Boston Marathon.
But she is known around the suburbs more for her cooking and she appears at many libraries and events teaching kids and adults about the fine art of her craft.
For nearly eight years, Bradley has been adding spice to the lives of library patrons with cooking demonstrations. This sought-after certified chef is a graduate from the esteemed Kendall College of Culinary Arts.
Like butter on a biscuit, Bradley is spread across Chicagoland, covering 52 libraries.
The going rate for a cooking class ranges from $40 to $90. But at most libraries, a Bradley demonstration can cost $3, which gets a patron a seat and a sample of food during Bradley’s 90-minute class.
During a pizza class with school-aged kids last Thursday at the Evergreen Park Library, there wasn’t a scrap of her delights to be found after her presentation.
The students gobbled up three types of pizza, including a dessert brownie pizza. The kids seemed to love her presentation, except when she announced that the next youth class would feature how to make salad. That drew a few groans and jeers.
She is lively, bouncy and funny when she gives her presentation.
“I never imagined I’d be doing this,” she said. “I used to be terrified of public speaking.”
Program Coordinator and Public Relations Representative of the Evergreen Park Library, Mary Deering looks forward to having Bradley appear for a demonstration.
“Kate and I have a history,” Deering said. “Our husbands went to Mt. Carmel High Cchool together. I’d run into her at the library all the time. She’s such a conversationalist. One day, she mentioned a cooking demo she was about to do for her daughter’s Brownie troop.
“That’s all it took. From there I asked if she’d present one for the library. I thought we’d offer it and see if anyone would show up.”
They showed up alright and Bradley has been hitting the library circuit with regularity for close to a decade.
“With so many libraries, my biggest fear is arriving to a library with the wrong food or, worse, being at the wrong library.” she said. 
Bradley said each recipe selection is specific to the library she’s visiting. “I once prepared dog treats to collaborate with the PAWS reading program one branch was offering,” she said.
It’s typical for classes to reach capacity, warranting program coordinators to enforce mandatory preregistration and strict residency requirements. Bradley laughed, “I’ve have fans. They follow me from library to library.”  
Her largest class size has reached 200.
She previously owned a bakery out of Evergreen Park called Bit of Bread.
“Running the bakery was wonderful. I knew my customer’s by what they ate. I’d say, ‘Here comes Mr. Blueberry muffin,’ ’’ she said. “But I had to let it go. I was working 16-hour days. I had two little girls.”
According to Bradley, the common desire of her students is to learn proper methods and get answers to questions on the spot.
Apparently, one of those students was very attentive. She used Bradley’s recipe in a contest and won a trip to Ireland.  

Evergreen Park Library Director, Nicki Seidel expresses joy when she speaks of Bradley.
“Kate has an effervescent personality,” Seidel said. “We’re so pleased that other libraries are getting a chance to appreciate her.
“Kate is a Renaissance woman, she knows a little of everything. Now she’s growing mushrooms. She’ll be teaching a class about that next.”
 Deering added, “Kate Bradley is magic. She uses this buzz word during her programs to convey her joy in cooking and teaching. Her enthusiasm and ideas bubble over into her students, cooking up a program that is both social and informative.”
Bradley uses the catch phrase “it’s magic” so often, it became the title to one of her two cookbooks. “It’s Magic” and “It’s Delicious” are compilations of recipes used during the library demonstrations.
All of the proceeds of “It’s Magic” go to the Evergreen Park Library foundation. Purchases can be made during class. Her monthly schedule is listed on her blog,
Bradley said, “I love being in the kitchen and I really love food.”
That is, when she’s not out running.