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Local

Sycamore homicide draws attention to domestic violence

SYCAMORE – In the wake of a killing that shocked the community, a local advocacy group is encouraging anyone living with domestic violence to seek help, and the state agency where the victim was an employee said its local office will be open for regular business hours Monday.

Lidia J. Juarez, 37, of DeKalb was found shot to death in her car outside the Illinois Department of Human Services, 1629 Afton Road. Juarez was an employee at the state agency, which helps people access social safety-net programs and services.

The man suspected of killing her is her estranged husband, Antonio L. Juarez, 44, of DeKalb. Lidia Juarez had an active order of protection against her husband, which Antonio already had violated before the attack, according to a news release from Sycamore police.

He was wanted on warrants for violating the protective order and for failure to appear in court on domestic violence charges, police said.

Antonio Juarez’s black 2005 Chrysler 3000 was later located by police driving on Ogden Avenue in Lyons. Juarez died in a shootout with police, who said he opened fire on them when they tried to stop his vehicle at the intersection of Ogden and Joliet Road in Lyons, Illinois State Police said. There are no other suspects in the killing, police said, and no danger to the community.

Jim Winters, deputy chief of the Sycamore Police Department, said Lidia Juarez’s car was parked in the front lot on the east side of the building, where other employees’ cars were parked as well.

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary James T. Dimas said Lidia Juarez was a devoted employee whose loss will be mourned by the agency.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our colleagues, Lidia Juarez,” Dimas said in a written statement. “Lidia was a public servant devoted to building up the lives of others through her work as a human services caseworker. We offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to her family, fellow colleagues and friends.”

Staff from nearby Department of Human Services centers will be on hand at the Sycamore location Monday to assist with services for the community, department spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said.

It was the first homicide in the city of Sycamore in 2017 and many residents expressed shock in the wake of the events. Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang offered his condolences to everyone involved.

“Our hearts are hurting and we wish them the very best. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Lang said. “It’s such a horrific tragedy, to suffer a loss like this.”

Mary Ellen Schaid is executive director of Safe Passage, the domestic violence agency and rape crisis center serving DeKalb County, and she said she hopes this tragedy will help raise awareness of the dangers surrounding domestic violence.

“I just want to extend my greatest sympathy to everyone involved; I know this is hard on police, too,” Schaid said. “I just want to encourage people to reach out for help.”

Schaid said Safe Passage has a 24/7 crisis hotline that domestic violence victims can call, 815-756-5228, and it offers an emergency shelter among other services that are entirely free and confidential.

“We serve everyone regardless of race, gender, immigration status – anything,” Schaid said.

To ensure cases such as Lidia’s don’t become more prevalent, Safe Passage is working alongside local police to assist officers in their responses to reports of domestic violence.

Schaid said the organization is bringing in professionals to train police in a new protocol called lethality assessments. Through each assessment, officers should be able to gain a better idea of the severity of a domestic violence situation. Officers also will put domestic violence victims in touch with Safe Passage for further resources.

“This is a terrible, terrible reminder that domestic violence is prevalent,” Winters said Sunday. “Although Friday’s tragedy got a lot of attention, there are plenty of times domestic violence is behind closed doors. It needs to be looked at from a legislative standpoint, a law enforcement standpoint, and a community standpoint, having these conversations in our schools. There’s a lot of different prongs to the issue that we can address and try to make change.”

Schaid wants to emphasize the need for education not only in law enforcement but also in the community. Safe Passage gives presentations throughout the community and attends public events.

“We just want to be as visible as possible,” Schaid said.

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