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Emotions also run high as Saturday’s rally draws 150

  • Written by Bob Rakow

An emotional Rebecca Tully Saturday discussed the anger and frustration she’s faced in the five months since her daughter’s death during a rally designed to bring attention to the tragic incident.
“All of the questions continue to go unanswered,” Tully told approximately 150 people gathered at the Christensen Terrace Centre, on Saturday afternoon. “We want to know how this happened. We need your help.”
Specifically, Tully and her family asked supporters to write and email Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez as well as Worth officials demanding that the investigation be stepped up.
The center, 115th Street and Beloit Avenue, is located near the Worth boat launch where Brittany Wawrzyniak’s body was found on the night on Nov. 8.
On Tuesday night, many of the same supporters walked from the boat launch to the center, the site of the village board meeting. At that meeting, Wawrzyniak’s family asked village leaders to intensify their focus on the case.
Worth police have refused to comment, saying the case it is an ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, Cook County prosecutors have told family members they can’t pursue further charges against Eric Steven Johnson unless they’re given more information from police.
Johnson has been charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Prosecutors maintain Wawrzyniak met Johnson at the boat launch, got into the back seat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam. She 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. She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.
The family rejects that argument, saying instead that the 18-year-old Wawrzyniak arranged a bogus drug buy as way of setting up a fight between a friend and another girl that was with Johnson.
The Worth police have confirmed that there were no drugs in Wawrzyniak’s system the night she died, the family has said.
The 90-minute rally also featured Tully and other family members field questions from supporters who packed the Christensen Terrace Centre gym.
“I’m a little nervous, so bear with me,” Tully said.
Tully read from a prepared statement and showed a brief PowerPoint presentation that recapped the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s death. She reminded the crowd that the tragedy that beset her family could have happened to anyone.
“We as a community don’t want to let this go,” she said.

Brittany supporters vow that more heat will come

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

After about an hour of having her board,Page-1-color-2-col-patdownPeople who attended Tuesday’s board meeting were patted down and frisked for weapons after there was a threat posted on Facebook about potential violence at the meeting. Photo by Jeff Vorva. police force and herself verbally attacked by the friends and family of Brittany Wawrzyniak, Worth Mayor Mary Werner called for a recess.
Most of the board members followed her into a side room at the Christensen Terrace Centre to take a break and to gather their thoughts for the rest of items on the agenda.
An estimated crowd of 200 gathered to question officials and police about Wawrzyniak’s death in November and how they are handling the investigation and treating the family. The crowd was heated and at times hurled personal insults at the board.
And there may be more heat to come.
During the board’s break, Patrick Wawrzniak, Brittany’s father, thanked the supporters for coming out and informed them to show up again at the village’s next board meeting April 15.
“Let’s block 111th Street!” shouted one supporter from the crowd. “Let’s shut it down!”
Generally, board meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month at the Village Hall, 7112 W. 111th St. But because of the anticipated crowd on Tuesday night, the meeting was moved to the gym area of the Christensen Terrace Centre – not far from where Brittany Wawrzniak’s death occurred.
The village has not announced if the next meeting will also be moved.
Despite the fact that some of the comments aimed at Werner and the board were profane, Mike Tully, Brittany’s step father, said this was “an important step” in pursuing what happened to Brittany.
“We needed this to happen to get it out,” he said.
One supporter said he planned on coming to every board meeting to protest until the family and community received answers. Werner told the audience it might take eight-to-10 months before the police or village will be able to comment publicly on the case.

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.