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Credit where credit is due

Friday, Jan 4, 2013

* This is a smart and reasonable move by State’s Attorney Alvarez

Saying she has “serious questions and concerns” about her office’s handling of the Nathaniel Beller arson tragedy, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has launched an internal investigation.

Hours after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed Thursday that Beller wasn’t charged with any crime after he threatened to burn his children to death during a tense standoff with Cicero Police in September, Alvarez issued a statement promising a “complete review” of the case.

The review will examine why Beller was freed so soon after the September incident, allowing him to allegedly follow through on his threat at his mom’s West Side home early Saturday. Beller poured accelerant on his girlfriend and two kids before lighting a fire that took his own life and also killed Taniya Johnson, 33, and their daughter Nariyah, 4, Chicago Police say.

He likely wouldn’t have been free to set the blaze if he had been prosecuted in the earlier case.

The State’s Attorney’s office rejected a request from Cicero Police to file felony charges even though a police report said that Beller had filled his bathtub with gasoline and told a lieutenant he would kill both kids if they tried to enter his home.

This appears to have been a major blunder, so let’s hope Alvarez can get to the bottom of it and does the right thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


17 Comments
  1. - Fire Anita Alvarez - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Was DCFS involved at all in this case?


  2. - LincolnLounger - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    I’m beginning to think the “right thing” for Anita Alvarez to do would be resign. She’s clearly not up to the task.


  3. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:12 am:

    Happy New Year, y’all!

    As for Anita’s internal investigation, let’s hope this one is more thorough than her work on the Koschman case.


  4. - Wensicia - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:21 am:

    Alvarez’s role as State’s Attorney is starting to look worse than Michael Waller’s in Lake County. She should copy his example and leave office at the end of this term.


  5. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:26 am:

    In light of her track record, I no longer trust her to run an internal investigation fairly and thoroughly.

    Perhaps an independent review board or investigator should run this review. They’d have more credibility.


  6. - cassandra - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:35 am:

    According to media reports, DCFS took the children into state custody after the first incident and placed them outside the home. Presumably, they felt that neither parent could safely care for the children (the mother may not have pursued a criminal complaint) and the Cook County SA (under Alvarez) would have filed a juvenile court petition to remove the children.

    Thus it seems that these children were state wards when the fatal incident occurred. What is puzzling is how the children ended up back with the mother last week. She took them to the home of the father and his mother, where the fire occurred. It seems unlikely a judge would have granted unsupervised visitation at this early stage in the case.

    Alvarez’s office may well have screwed up here, but if the children were in state custody it was reasonable for her prosecutors to believe they were safe.

    An independent investigation of both agencies’ handling of this case is needed.


  7. - reformer - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:45 am:

    The last time Alvarez did an “independent review,” she concluded that no one should be charged in the Kuschman homicide. It wasn’t until Dan Webb was appointed independent prosecutor that an indictment occurred. Given the prosecutorial prediction for defensiveness and stubbornness (see Waller, Mike), it’s hard to have much confidence in the objectivity of such a review.


  8. - OneMan - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 10:53 am:

    Not holding my breath on the review, I suspect some unconnected jr DA is going to get tossed under a bus.


  9. - homunculus - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:06 am:

    I think what’s needed at this point is a DOJ probe into Cook County’s Felony Review program.


  10. - StayFree75 - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    cassandra, it seems obvious to me that more than likely the children were placed with the mother rather than being made state wards.


  11. - StayFree75 - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:27 am:

    Also, I too am obviously just speculating, but that was my take when I first read about this.


  12. - Boone Logan Square - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    ==This appears to have been a major blunder, so let’s hope Alvarez can get to the bottom of it and does the right thing.==

    Rich, you might want to set this sentence up as a macro on your computer to save time.


  13. - Ace Laredo - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    Yeah, she’s great at getting to the bottom of stuff. Crack investigator that one.


  14. - cassandra - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 12:04 pm:

    That’s what I thought until I read an article citing the DCFS spokesperson, who said DCFS was investigating the “foster parents” for neglect, presumably for letting the kids go with the parents. The spokesperson also said that the children were taken into custody by DCFS in September.

    Either way, the decision-making seems poor. The mother clearly couldn’t protect the kids.

    DCFS has a network of child death review teams funded by taxpayers. Maybe they’ll look into it.


  15. - Crime Fighter - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    - Boone Logan Square - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    ==This appears to have been a major blunder, so let’s hope Alvarez can get to the bottom of it and does the right thing.==

    ==”Rich, you might want to set this sentence up as a macro on your computer to save time.”==

    Rich, I think BLS @ 11:42am is on to something.


  16. - Steve I - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 2:43 pm:

    She will order the transcripts of the bad guys last court appearances. The last ASA that did not object to “whatever” will be asked to resign.
    “Investigation Continues”… Maybe someone will be walking past a field with a dead body and then have sex with it, and Anita can charge them, and everyone will forget about the “gas man” case. maybe she can have the ASA that bit the guy up on the Northside take the fall for this case. Takes care of two birds with one stone…


  17. - sal-says - Friday, Jan 4, 13 @ 4:12 pm:

    “This appears to have been a major blunder, so let’s hope Alvarez can get to the bottom of it and does the right thing.”

    Apparently not her first MAJOR blunder; let’s hope she can finally figure things out and get more of them right; not just this one. And, prove she’s not ‘undersized’ for the job she has.


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