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Illinois Child Welfare Worker Stabbed To Death In Brutal Attack During Home Visit
Benjamin Mills has been charged with murder in the case. Six children were present in the home at the time of the fatal stabbing.
The family of an Illinois social worker who was killed on the job while responding to reports of a possibly endangered child are demanding answers after the Springfield mother’s abrupt death.
Deidre Silas, 36, a state Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigator, was fatally stabbed at a home in Thayer, Illinois on Tuesday, officials said.
Silas died of "multiple sharp force injuries and blunt force trauma," Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon confirmed with Oxygen.com on Monday. Her death was ruled a homicide.
On Jan. 4, Sangamon County deputies, along with local police, were called to the 300 block of West Elm Street in Thayer shortly after 4 p.m. after reports of the deadly knife attack. Silas was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene.
Benjamin Reed, 32, a resident at the property, was arrested roughly half hour later at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register, after seeking medical treatment for a cut he’d sustained on his hand. Reed has since been charged with murder by Sangamon County State’s Attorney.
Law enforcement officials haven’t specified a motive in Silas’ murder.
Six children, aged one to seven, as well as other adults, were present in the house at the time of the fatal stabbing. Authorities were unable to immediately confirm if the minors belonged to Reed. The children have since been turned over to state officials.
Officials confirmed that Silas had been investigating a possible case of child neglect at the time of her death.
"The investigator visits the home and interviews witnesses to determine if the allegation is founded and what action should be taken," Anders Lindall, a Council 31 spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees told the State Journal-Register.
The Springfield woman had been working for DCFS since August.
“The Department of Children and Family Services is deeply saddened by the tragic death of our colleague, Deidre Silas," DCFS Director Marc D. Smith told Oxygen.com in a statement. "Our most heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers are with her family during this very difficult time."
"Social work is more than just a job, it is a calling," Smith added. "Deidre responded to this call and dedicated herself to the children, families and communities she served, and we will be forever grateful for her work. She was an incredible person, and her brightness and positivity will be missed not only by her family and friends, but also her second family at DCFS.”
Silas had previously worked in behavioral health for more than half a decade.
Roberta Lynch, the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also said her agency was “heartbroken” by Silas’ killing.
“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,” Lynch told the Associated Press.
Silas leaves behind a husband and two children, family said.
“Why do you really attack my daughter? Silas’ father, Roy Graham said during an interview with the Associated Press. "I can’t understand why you’d do that. I know she’d be begging for her life. Why? She didn’t come to talk to you…That’s brutal, mischievous, hardcore stuff.”
Reed’s bond was set at $5 million. He’s currently in custody at a Sangamon County detention facility, according to online jail records. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal representation.
A spokesperson for Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright’s office wasn’t immediately available for comment regarding the open case when contacted by Oxygen.com on Monday afternoon.