Ill. lawmaker Introduces Legislation in Response to Social Worker's Murder on the Job

11 Jan, 2022 Liz Carey


Thayer, IL ( – An Illinois legislator is renewing her efforts to protect social workers after one was killed on the job. 

Illinois Rep. Tony McCombie said she’s been trying to ensure Department of Child and Family Services workers are better protected for the past three years. 

Now, after the death of a DCFS worker on Jan. 4, McCombie hopes that her proposal, HB 3933,  to make attacks on DCFS workers on the same level as attacks on police and firefighters, which would automatically increase the sentence against violent offenders. Currently, the sentence for someone convicted of assaulting a DCFS worker is two to five years. With the new legislation, the sentence would be increased to up to 10 years. 

The legislation passed the Illinois House of Representatives in 2021, but failed to pass the Senate. 

On Jan. 5, McCombie’s legislation got several new co-sponsors, a reaction to the violent attack on a DCFS worker. 

Officials said that 36-year-old Deidre Silas was performing a home visit on six children when she was stabbed multiple times. 

While it wasn’t clear from officials whether or not the children witnessed the attack, they were, in the house at the time the attack took place, officials said. 

Police later arrested 32-year-old Benjamin Reed, who allegedly lived at the house, and charged him with first degree murder, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint. According to court documents, after the attack, Reed fled the scene with a woman and four of the children. Another individual came afterwards and took the other two children, officials said. 

Reed was taken to Sangamon County Jail where his bail was set at $5 million. However, Sangamon County Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher later rescinded that bail after dozens of DCFS workers flooded the courtroom prior to Reed’s arraignment. 

In filing to deny Reed bond, Wright referenced the autopsy report, which she said showed the “unspeakably violent conduct” on the suspect’s part. 

"As an officer of the court, not only was (Reed's) behavior indicative of wanton cruelty," Wright said, "it can be characterized as pure, unadulterated evil." 

Wright said if Reed met bail, he could become a threat to the community. 

Reed’s arrest, and Silas’ murder, come just four years after the death of another DCFS worker. 

On Sept. 29, 2017, Whiteside County DCFS worker Pam Knight was performing a welfare check in Milledgeville when she was attacked. Knight, a 12-year veteran DCFS worker, was taking a 2-year-old boy into custody at his grandparent’s house, when she was attacked by the boy’s father, Andrew Sucher. 

Sucher was accused of beating and kicking Knight, fracturing her skull and sending her into a coma. Knight died five months later. Sucher would later agree to a plea deal that sentenced him to 21 years in jail without the option of parole. 

"(Sucher) ambushed her when she got out of the car. She didn't get five feet from the door of her car, and he nailed her," said Pam's husband, Don Knight told WQAD. "Hit her in the head with one blow with his hand, knocked her down. And he took a steel toed shoe and kicked her in the head three times and destroyed the left side of her brain. Took her life right there." 

McCombie said her legislation would provide added protections to DCFS workers. And she said she would like to see more protections for DCFS workers, beyond her proposed legislation. 

"We don't need to put guns or tasers on DCFS workers. That's not the answer," he said. "But we got to do something to help them. A pencil and a piece of paper is not enough." 

State Rep. Mike Halpin and State Sen. Brian Stewart said they supported the legislation and were committed to passing it in separate statements Wednesday. Halpin said DCFS workers need protection.

"I think it's important to go back through and review the policies that are in place. I think it would certainly be helpful to have backup or assistance in these situations,” he said. 

In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been created in Silas’ name to raise money for the social workers’ daughter, 2, and son, 5. As of Friday night, the fund had raised nearly $37,000 of the $100,000 goal.


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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