AFSCME child welfare worker stabbed to death during home visit

Illinois Correspondent

DEIDRE SILAS, an investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and member of AFSCME Local 805, was murdered while responding to a report of children in danger in the town of Thayer, south of Springfield on Jan. 4.

Springfield, IL – Illinois child welfare worker Diedre Silas, 36, a member of AFSCME Local 805 (part of AFSCME Council 31), was stabbed to death on Jan. 4 during a home visit south of Springfield, authorities said.

Silas, an investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), was conducting a welfare check on children living in a home in Thayer when she was stabbed, Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said.

Benjamin Reed, 32, a resident of the home, faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery. Thayer is located 23 miles south of Springfield.

Police came to the scene at 4:30 p.m., found blood near the door and forced their way inside, where they found Silas already dead. Using a search warrant, they found evidence that led them to arrest Reed at a hospital at 6:30 p.m. He was treated for a minor injury and taken to the Sangamon County Jail, where bond was set at $5 million. State’s Attorney Dan Wright was filing first-degree murder and aggravated battery charges.

Silas joined the department in August after working seven years at the Department of Juvenile Justice, where she was a union steward, AFSCME said.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of DCFS investigator and AFSCME member Deidre Silas of Springfield, murdered while responding to a report of children in danger,” Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “The perpetrator of this unspeakable crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Deidre dedicated her career to helping young people,” Lynch added. “This tragedy is a stark reminder that frontline DCFS employees like Deidre do demanding, dangerous and essential jobs every day, often despite inadequate resources and tremendous stress.

“AFSCME will carefully study the facts of this incident as they emerge and press for any necessary changes to DCFS operations. One death in the line of service is too many.”

The union was providing support to Silas’ co-workers and family, Lynch said.

“The hearts and thoughts of every AFSCME member are with Deidre’s loved ones, especially her children, in the wake of their profound and senseless loss,” she said. “In her name, we rededicate ourselves to our vigilant advocacy to improve workplace safety for all.”

State Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield) issued a statement mourning Silas’ death. “The senseless death of Deidre Silas, a DCFS investigator who dedicated her career to helping at-risk youth, is devastating. My heart goes out to all who love her during this difficult time,” said Turner, a longtime union supporter.

“The work is challenging and can clearly be dangerous,” Turner said. “One death in the line of service is too many. We must do a better job of protecting those who serve in positions like these.”



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