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For more information about victim services in Cook County,
contact the Cook County Victim Witness Program

Each year the Cook County States Attorney's Victim Witness Office holds a wonderful day for Victims at the South Shore Cultural Center that allows us to honor and memorialize our murdered family members and be there to support each other. There are information booths, food, memorial photos, and a lovely ceremony. This photo was taken at the 2006 gathering. Left to right: Jacque Algee and friend, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, and Alice Thomas Norris.



Chicago Tribune covers IllinoisVictims.Org Mother re: area gang member who
murdered POMC Chapter leader's son is killed himself - justice denied to
grieving Mother in court is finally accomplished by the offender's own bad choices



Victim - Law Enforcement Summit to be held in Chicago area: is inviting all prosecutors, law enforcement and local
community leaders to attend this open conversation about how to improve victim services and relations with the community - Exact date and place TBA soon . . .
 CONTACT US for more information and to RSVP



October 19th at the Chicago South Shore Cultural Center the Cook County Victim Witness Program will hold its annual Victim Memorial from 11 am to 2 pm - there will be refreshments, informational booths, including one from, and Memorial Walls, and a very special program.


Chicago's famed Field Museum sets up an exhibit honoring murdered school children


PAROLE BLOCK: Help a woman rape victim fight the parole of a multiple murderer and rapist sentenced to 1,500 years in prison, and yet is still able to come up for possible release every single year.


See "Cases of Concern" for coverage of murder cases up for parole from Cook County including cop killers, murderers released without notice to victims families, victim outcry about mistreatment, etc.


The first HERO AWARD


Cook County Budget Problems and Victims Issues


A brief history of the Victim Witness Program in Cook County.


Cook County Victim Group Meetings

ED NOTE: Maria Ramirez is one of IllinoisVictims.Org and POMC's most active victims. She has been a tireless supporter of other victim families and we are grateful that she may be able to at least know some relief from the burden of knowing her son's killer was walking free. No justice for Maria in the Criminal Justice system, but the offender does himself in - often the way with offenders.

Mother's peaceAngry mom: Justice served
By Angela Rozas Tribune reporter
November 12, 2008,0,6725207.story
Maria Ramirez on the violent death of the suspect in her son's killing: "At least now he's not out on the street, able to do what was done to me to another mother." (Tribune photo by Bonnie Trafelet / October 18, 2008)
On the day she heard a judge order the suspect in her son's killing set free, Maria Ramirez shut her eyes to the horror. She clenched her fists, felt her body shake and couldn't breathe.

For more than two years, Maria Ramirez had attended every hearing of the suspect, Christopher Sodaro. Matthew Ramirez died at age 16, walking home from a friend's house on a cold February night in 2006, shot because Sodaro mistakenly thought he was in a gang, authorities said.

Police never found a weapon, Sodaro never admitted guilt and the state's best witness was another gang member. And so in July a judge released Sodaro, now 17, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.

Ramirez fell apart. She left town for a month, the pain of losing her son as fresh as the day it happened. Then on an October night, she got the news. The teen accused of killing her son was dead. Sodaro had gotten into a fight with rival gang members, and he was dragged by a car to his death. Nobody has been charged.

Matthew Ramirez
(Family photo)

In that moment and in the weeks to follow, she felt no sorrow for the teen or his family, Ramirez recalled. In fact, she felt pure joy. His death, his choices, she says, gave her the justice that the legal system could not. It was cosmic justice.

"I'm extremely happy. This kid, this guy was a hard-core gangbanger," she said recently. "At least now he's not out on the street, able to do what was done to me to another mother. At least he can't kill another now."

It's unusual, even shocking, to hear anyone talk so forcefully about the death of another. But Ramirez had her reasons.

If Sodaro had been found guilty and sent to prison, she rationalized, he would still be alive. If Sodaro had taken the second chance at life the justice system granted him and left the gangs behind when he was released, he would still be alive.

Ramirez felt no sorrow because she believed that Sodaro alone was responsible for what happened to him, even his own death. She felt no remorse because she believed Sodaro felt no remorse for killing her son. Ramirez said she did not feel sorry even for Sodaro's mother, who did not return phone calls for comment.

"I'm happy she's wearing my shoes. I hope they fit real good," she said angrily, blaming Sodaro's family for not keeping him out of gangs.

Her son had a future. He wanted to be a firefighter, like his grandfather, and a chef, she said. When he was 14, he had chosen to be a Ramirez, and not a gang member, because his mother told him he could not be both.

"This was my only child," Ramirez said, her voice quiet now. "I cannot have any more children. I will have no grandchildren. . . . This guy was a danger to every other child out there."

She knows some might disapprove of her honesty. She doesn't care. She left the church the day Sodaro was set free but believes someday she will return. It's not that she wanted Sodaro dead. She just wanted him locked up.

But that's not what happened. And now the teen accused of killing her son is gone.

And, finally, she feels free.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 5pm-7pm at the Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive (enter off of the 18th Street exit, going north or south) will host and honor 28 slain students with memorial chairs, which was created by students of Nicholson Elementary School in the Englewood neighborhood, where each student, simply and eloquently decorated the chairs with the slain student's name, age, and school. The Field Museum is honored to present these chairs as a special memorial in the Grainger Gallery, August 5 - September 1, 2008.

John W. McCarter, Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Field Museum will host the event.
Reserved free parking will be available in the Field Museum's West Parking Lot.


Contact Purpose Over Pain for more information.


ed note - CLICK HERE to see contact information for the Prisoner Review Board  Then WRITE them and ask them NOT to parole Paul Bryant - He was sentenced to 1,500 years in prison. That should mean a life sentence for the multiple murders and rapes he committed. Read on for the full story.,1,7551935.story

Rape victim tells parole board to keep attacker in prison

By Angela Rozas

Tribune reporter

February 20, 2008

For years, he was behind every closed door she passed, every darkened room. In the months after he attacked her, she cut her long, red hair, thinking maybe that was why he had made her his target.

She was his last rape victim, the one who helped police catch him, ending his reign of terror on the streets of Chicago.

And now, nearly three decades later, Paul Bryant's final victim is hoping she can once again stand between him and freedom.

Bryant, 58, is up for parole before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. At a hearing Wednesday, Cook County prosecutors are expected to read a letter of protest from the woman expressing her bewilderment that Bryant, convicted of two murders and five rapes, has even a remote chance to be released.

"I gave up so much in order to stay alive," the woman, now 60 and living in Kansas City, Mo., said in a telephone interview last week. "I went crazy, and I was so traumatized in so many ways. But now ... now I want this guy out of my head."

The Cook County judge who sentenced Bryant in 1980 to 500 to 1,500 years in prison for just one of the murders said then he wanted to send a message to parole boards in the future that Bryant should never be released. Since then, all of Bryant's attempts at parole have been denied.

By law, Bryant appears before the parole board every year or so, and each time prosecutors have argued against his release.

The Missouri woman, who asked not to be identified, was raped at knifepoint in her North Side condominium in August 1979. Two nights later, Bryant climbed into her home through a bathroom window and attacked her again. She quickly called police after he fled, and Bryant was arrested nearby. She identified him as her attacker on the scene but never had to testify in court after he pleaded guilty to both rapes.

Just two weeks ago, an investigator for the state's attorney's office called to tell her that Bryant was up for parole again.

"All of the details [of the rapes] just came flooding back," said the victim, then a 32-year-old divorced waitress.

She recalled the mirror in her condo that Bryant broke when he slammed her against it. She thought of the distinct, terrifying scar on his arm. She remembered trying to pretend she was sick, pregnant, anything to get him to leave her alone.

Each year in Illinois, as many as 300 inmates convicted of crimes before 1978 may be up for parole hearings. Called C-number inmates, they were given indeterminate sentences, requiring that they go before the parole board to decide whether their incarceration will continue.

But the law changed in 1978, so judges now issue determinate sentences with set release dates.

In addition to five rapes, Bryant was convicted of killing Frances Parro, 59, whose throat he slashed during a robbery in 1976, and LaDonna Warren, 16, whom he robbed, beat, strangled and set on fire in 1977. Because some of the crimes for which he was convicted occurred before 1979, Bryant had the option of being sentenced under the pre-1978 law.

The hearings are hard on surviving families and victims, said Assistant State's Atty. Gina Savini, who handles parole hearings.

"Whatever sentence the inmate got, the victim's serving a far worse one because they have to live with this crime," Savini said. "A lot of these people have to continue to live in fear that [offenders] might get paroled."

Although each rape victim deals with the trauma differently, the recurring parole board hearings can inflict new trauma, according to experts.

"I think the lengthiness of our criminal justice process for our victims actually draws out the experience of rape," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of the Chicago-based Rape Victim Advocates. "Regardless of when, whether it's right after or 50 years later, it still takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength for someone to come forward and identify themselves as a survivor and tell their story."

For many years after her attack, the Missouri woman said, she lived in a fog, unable to keep jobs in Chicago or relationships with friends. She blamed herself.

"I turned into a plant practically, immobile, [a] vegetative, quivering mass of fear," she said. "Everybody I knew thought I was nuts. Everybody wanted to be far away from me. I was cruel. I didn't know who was being nice to me. I would lash out. I would scream."

She moved from Chicago to live with her mother. And slowly, she started to rebuild her life. She married a "wonderful man," she said, and told him a few years ago about the attacks.

Fearful of therapy in the early years, she has since sought professional help. Thoughts of Bryant, while never gone, lessened, she said.

She has grown stronger, she said. Perhaps now, if she told her story, others might benefit, she said. Perhaps now she will be the one to wield power over his life, instead of him over hers.

So she wrote a letter, describing to the parole board the lasting effects Bryant's attacks.

"He has stifled my life long enough," she said in the interview. "You need to be able to say, 'This is evil and I survived it and if you need to know how, I can tell you how I did it.'"

The parole board is expected to make a decision in a few months.



The First Victims' Hero Award

When we learned that Cook County States' Attorney Richard Devine was retiring, we knew who should be the recipient of our first ever award.


Monday, October 15, 10:30 a.m. at the Cook County States' Attorney's offices:
69 W. Washington, Suite 3200, Chicago, Illinois 60602

There was a press conference where we gave the award and then a small private reception followed.

Mr. Devine introduced the Victim Witness Assistance Program in the States Attorney office when he was First Assistant to then State's Attorney Richard Daley. In 1999, the program was awarded a Crime Victim Service Award from the Department of Justice for "outstanding service on behalf of victims of crime." The award was presented by Attorney General Janet Reno in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Devine and members of the office, including staff from the Victim Witness program, were also recognized at the 2002 Annual Conference of the National District Attorney's Association for their work in having the victims' voices heard during the death penalty clemency hearings.

RSVP to here

We are very sad to see him go. Mr. Devine has been a true friend to victims of crime and one of the kindest, wisest, most capable men we know. We wish him well but most of all, thank him profusely to all he has done for us. He has worked tirelessly to expand services to the many crime victims of one of the nation's most populous counties.

That there is a victim-sensitive person in that office has been more important than we can say. He has been on the front line for us year after hard-working year and he and his hard working and professional staff are heroes to those of us who suffer from criminal attack. He has been our good voice and advocate and we will miss him a great deal.

We know there are many candidates vying to fill this seat. Of the announced candidates we have heard of, we will be strongly supporting Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who is also one of the wisest and most capable men we know, fiercely devoted to justice. Cook County could not do better than to have Larry Suffredin as its next States Attorney.

The Cook County Budget Problems and Victims Issues

Cook County, the state's largest county, that holds almost half of the state's population, has the highest crime, and subsequently the largest number of victims. Cook County States Attorney Richard Devine, one of the best friends to victims in the entire state, maintains the largest victim witness program as well -- far more than any other county. Some counties in Illinois in fact do not even have a single professional victim advocate. Some downstate counties have to "loan" victim advocates to other neighboring counties when severely needed. So many we are already beginning to hear of downstate receive no county based victims' services at all.

So we in Cook County remain grateful for what we have here, while expressing concern for recent developments with the budget problems in Cook County.

In January of 2007, members of the Cook County Board struggled to come up with a budget that would deal with the rising deficits in spending and costs. Rather than do the harder work of looking carefully at where best to cut and what revenue enhancements were available, the Board President chose to cut straight across the top 17% in all departments.  This was not the smart way to handle the problem. Direct front line vital services to citizens were cut - emergency room doctors and nurses, hospital services and other vital health care services, County Sheriffs, jail personnel, and vital staff for the courts which protect law and order -- prosecutors' offices, defense attorneys, and direct and indirect victim services. One of our favorite programs, the "Victim Impact Panels" or Community Impact Panels, run through the Juvenile Probation Department, was all but eliminated. This award winning program has already saved who knows how many lives because of the ways it has helped turn young people's lives around, and keep them from recidivism.  Never before had we seen a more successful program promoting public safety and reduced crime. It is only being done now in one courthouse in the County - Rolling Meadows.

We understand the budget crisis the county was in. But we know that several very smart County Board members were looking to make budget cuts and revenue enhancements in a very responsible way, instead of the hatchet job that was done. Cuts weren't made where they were most needed or based on where they would make the most sense. They were lopped off like a guillotine takes off a head. And worst of all, this all happened while the Board President was being roundly criticized in the Press for padding his own staff payroll with family members and friends at extremely high salaries. opposes the final budget package as it finally was accepted for all these reasons. We support the work of reformers like Larry Suffredin and Forrest Claypool and others to repair responsibly the financial matters that concern the county. And we intend to work publicly to oppose all those who voted the wrong way on this budget. We are even thinking about running our own candidates against incumbent board members who vote the wrong way on these life and death issues.

CONTACT US with any cases of victimization and re-victimization that you come across related to Cook County cases. We will try to post them all on the website, as well.



Thanks to Linnet Myers and Rose Perez of the Cook County Victim Witness Program for providing interesting information to about the history of victim services in one of the largest counties in the nation. Portions of this narrative come from the annual report prepared by Wendy Sadler, President of Victim-Witness Assistance Project, Inc, 1980.

While victim services are generally excellent in Cook County, many counties, especially in downstate Illinois do not have any victims services, which is why we want to highlight this history, in the hopes that all counties in Illinois will find ways to offer at least some basic victim services.

Victim services in Cook County are now a part of the office of the States Attorney, but in their origins they were done privately and voluntarily.  The Victim-Witness Assistance Project, Inc. began in the late 70's as a project of the Junior League. They began by providing operations at two courthouses: 26th and California, and Western and Belmont.

Direct services and support for victims and witnesses of crime included one to one counseling, helping with filing of victims' compensation, getting employers to approve court time for employees, working with adult probation on cases in which victims had not received court ordered restitution from the defendant, and helping the victim or witness get through the day in court. They sent thousands of outreach letters informing victims of their right to compensation.

The project employed two full time professionals: an Executive and Associate Director. They had a team of 35 volunteers, 32 from the Junior League. Volunteers were trained and selected the locations they wanted to work. The project was overseen by a Board of Directors that managed the funds given by the Junior League.

In 1979-1980 the Illinois Organization of Victim Assistance (IOVA) was established with funding from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in Washington, D.C.  The Project's ED Martha Yandle served as president of IOVA.  IOVA began coordinating efforts to bring state-wide victim-witness professionals together to clarify and facilitate the purposes of the various agencies of the state. And the Project donated matching funds to help them get started. Ms. Yandle also served on the national board of directors of NOVA, and the Project and NOVA exchanged training and expertise.

The Victim-Witness Assistance Project, Inc also worked on legislation, such as bills in defense of employees who were at risk in their jobs because they had to take time off to be in court, and bills dealing with victim compensation. Junior League advisors did training on how to write legislation.

One interesting result of the creation of the Victim-Witness Project's study into results showed definitely that the presence of the program in the two courthouses led to the following differences compared to Cook County courthouses without victim services: far fewer dismissals of cases in preliminary hearings and a greater percentage of cases whose dispositions were favorable to the prosecution.

In 1980 the Project worked with the Cook County State's Attorney's office to move the program under that office. The Junior League extended funding during the financial transition, sharing expenses with the lesser funded government program.  They set up a Community Advisory Committee to assist in a strong, new Victim-Witness Assistance Unit within the Cook County State's Attorney office.

We are all now grateful for these visionary pioneers, not only here in Illinois, but nationally who grew the field of victims rights and victim services from the late 60's forward to today.


Please click on the link at the top of this page to get more information about the releases in Feb. 2, 20007 on John Outlaw and Frederick Thomas, the murderer of Chicago Police Officer Kenneth Kaner, and the longest serving inmate in Illinois, William Heirens.

Click here for outcry from Victims Family in Oak Park area death penalty trial and go to "Viewpoint" then "Letters" and "April 1, 2008" - advocates for offenders should learn from this to be sensitive in all public communications about how their wording will be perceived by victims families.


POMC (Parents of Murdered Children) Meetings

Westside Chapter Monthly Meetings:

Mount Sinai Hospital, California Ave at 15th Street, Chicago, II 60608
Third Tuesday of every month 6:30pm-8:30pm
Samantha Glover- chapter leader 708-576-8326
Emma Daviston- co leader 773-521-7329

Chicago Area Chapter  meets Monthly:

Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St., on the 1st Thursday of each month, 7-9 pm
773-660-9659 or 773- 847-1613


President, Ron Holt, Chicago Police Officer, Father of Blair Holt, Chicago Public High School student who heroically laid down his life to save a girl on a bus.


ANGEL CORPS - A project of UCAN (Uhlich Childrens' Advantage Network) - Victims helping Victims, peer and group support, with Social Service professionals available at a 24 hour hotline at 312-388-2900 FOUNDERS

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins and Bill Jenkins
Cook County Residents

We started IllinoisVictims.Org because it is often true that we are our own best advocates - it is especially true for victims. We wanted to create a voice for victims rights, needs and concerns everywhere in Illinois. This website is for all victims in Illinois. Send us your voices, your stories, your information and any thoughts.

We are all here for each other. We are SUPPORT for each other.

Both Jennifer and Bill have had family members murdered and met doing victim work.




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