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Two parole officials quit after felon released from prison allegedly stabbed ex-girlfriend, killed her 11-year-old son

Chicago police work the scene in the 5900 block of North Ravenswood Avenue where an 11-year-old boy was killed and his mother was stabbed on March 13.

The chairman and another member of the state’s parole board have resigned in light of the board’s controversial decision to release a convicted felon who then allegedly stabbed a former girlfriend and killed her 11-year-old son just a day after leaving prison.

Pritzker initially announced the resignation of LeAnn Miller, the member of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board who oversaw the decision to release Crosetti Brand after he allegedly violated his parole by showing up at the woman’s home just over a month before the deadly attack.

The governor didn’t say why Miller had chosen to step down but indicated she played a key role in the flawed decision to place Brand back on the street. Pritzker noted she conducted the pivotal parole hearing and “prepared a draft order provided to a panel of two additional members for concurrence.”

Pritzker said she ultimately made “the correct decision in stepping down.”

“It is clear that evidence in this case was not given the careful consideration that victims of domestic violence deserve, and I am committed to ensuring additional safeguards and training are in place to prevent tragedies like this from happening again,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Later Monday, Pritzker struck a different tone while announcing that board president Donald Shelton had also stepped aside. Shelton, a former longtime member of the Champaign Police Department, wasn’t directly involved in the decision to parole Brand.

Pritzker lauded Shelton for serving on the board for more than a decade and “providing a model of dedication to public service.”

“During his time with the Champaign Police Department and with the PRB he worked diligently to keep Illinoisans safe and uphold our justice system,” Pritzker added, “and I think him for his service.”

The governor’s office declined to comment on whether the resignations were requested.

Amanda Pyron, executive director of the Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, said she hoped the action “marks the beginning of systemic accountability in this case.”

“It is clear from the review of events that many actors failed to take the necessary steps to safeguard this family,” Pyron said. “We hope this leads to broader accountability and investments in a safety net built through increasing supportive services.”

Jayden Perkins

 

Victim cried out for help

Brand, 37, allegedly forced his way into the woman’s apartment in the 5900 block of North Ravenswood Avenue and repeatedly stabbed her on the morning of March 13, prosecutors have said.

The woman’s son, Jayden Perkins, “attempted numerous times to help his mother” and was stabbed to death, they said.

In the ensuing days and weeks, officials have struggled to explain why the woman’s calls for help apparently went unanswered before the attack.

She had been notified when Brand was released on parole last October after he served eight years of a 16-year sentence for attacking another ex-partner and pointing a gun at her son in 2015.

Prosecutors said the woman was informed because she was the victim in previous domestic violence cases against Brand, including repeated violations of protection orders.

When Brand allegedly arrived at her home on Feb. 1, she quickly reported that he “was presently at her door stalking her,” according to a parole violation report obtained through a public records request.

A parole official followed up and she told him Brand “was at her address ringing the door bell and pulling on the door handle,” the report states.

Brand initially admitted that he was at her home but claimed he was merely looking for an apartment, according to the report.

He turned himself in that day and was sent to the Stateville Correctional Center and was cited for a series of alleged parole violations, including coming into contact with the woman.

Within weeks, the prisoner review board decided to release him again — after Brand changed his story and denied going to her home.

During a Feb. 26 board hearing, Brand and his attorney said there was no evidence that he traveled to her home, according to the order prepared by Miller.

Brand, who was on electronic monitoring at the time, insisted that “GPS would have picked up on it, and it didn’t” — an account the order indicated was backed up by data from a parolee tracking system.

The woman wasn’t called to testify before the board, and three members determined there wasn’t enough evidence to corroborate her claims.

Days earlier, she had appeared before a Cook County judge and asked for an emergency order of protection, saying Brand had threatened her in text messages and had come to her home, according to a transcript of the Feb. 21 hearing.

She told Judge Thomas Nowinski that Brand sent the text messages on Jan. 30 and came to her apartment on Feb. 1. She said police wouldn’t take a report and instead directed her to get an order of protection.

While officials have said the woman already had an active order of protection, she told Nowinski that she didn’t.

Because Brand was locked up, Nowinski ruled that the woman’s case didn’t amount to an emergency and set a hearing for March 13 — the morning of the attack and just a day after Brand was released.

‘This tragedy could have been avoided’

In his statement Monday, Pritzker said he has asked the prisoner review board to work with experts and advocates to overhaul training for cases involving domestic violence.

The governor also pushed the board and the Illinois Department of Corrections to review “rules and procedures for receiving information” about those cases “to determine whether changes are necessary.”

“My thoughts are with [the woman who was stabbed] as she recovers and with the entire family of Jayden Perkins as we mourn this tragic loss,” Pritzker said. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Members of the prisoner review board have partisan affiliations and are handpicked by the governor, which frequently leads to criticism at the top when things go wrong. Under state law, the board can have up to 15 members, with no more than eight from the same party.

Miller and Shelton were among five Republicans on the board, along with seven Democrats and one independent. With Monday’s resignations, there are now 11 members.

Shelton, of Sangamon County, had been on the board since 2012 and was earning a $108,189 annual salary as chair. Miller, of Gallatin County, was appointed in September 2021 and was making $96,920 a year.

Ultimately, the decision to release Brand on parole was made by Miller, who oversaw the hearing, along with Krystal Tison, an independent board member from Saline County and Kenneth Tupy, another Republican board member from Sangamon County.

While the board acts independently, Pritzker’s prisoner review board appointments were under a microscope during his 2022 reelection campaign — and pressure from Republicans, along with negative headlines, seemed to work.

In March 2022, 14 Senate Democrats joined Republicans to reject Pritzker’s nominee Eleanor Wilson, and 12 other Democrats refused to vote at all. Pritzker’s other appointee, Oreal James, resigned from his post early that day to avoid what many expected to be a similar rejection.

Pritzker’s two appointees drew criticism from lawmakers — and from former Republican primary candidate for governor Richard Irvin — for their votes to free Joseph Hurst and Johnny Veal, who were convicted of killing Chicago police officers.

James was appointed in April 2019 but was never confirmed because the Senate didn’t take up the appointment during abbreviated legislative sessions during the pandemic.

That process, and the election, prompted Republicans to take a closer look into the decisions of the nominees. GOP lawmakers also complained about a lack of transparency.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R- Edwardsville, noted Monday that he and his colleagues had “raised serious concerns about LeAnn Miller’s qualifications, her voting record on the prisoner review board, and the impact of those decisions on public safety.”

“I have consistently sounded the alarm bell about the direction the governor’s appointees were taking the board as a whole. This tragedy could have been avoided,” Plummer said. “This man never should have been released and this innocent child should still be alive.

“It’s well past time that the governor and his allies start putting Illinoisans ahead of activists,” he said. “We need reforms at the PRB that will keep our families and communities safe.”

Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Public Radio

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