Arrest made in death of DCFS caseworker
Authorities have arrested a Thayer man after a Department of Children and Family Services caseworker was found dead a residence in the village Tuesday afternoon.
Officials say Deidre Silas of Springfield, 36, was responding to a report of a child in danger in the 300 block of West Elm.
The Sangamon County Sheriff said police were called for a possible stabbing. Pawnee officers arrived first, with Auburn and Divernon police soon after. The sheriff said they noticed a substance that appeared to be blood near the door of the residence. Once they made into the house, the sheriff said Silas' body was found. She was declared dead at the scene.
County deputies soon determined a suspect, who was located at a hospital in Decatur. Decatur police took Benjamin Reed of Thayer, 32, into custody. He was transported back to the Sangamon County jail.
Reed faces charges of first degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
DCFS Director Marc Smith called it one of the most difficult days in the history of the agency. He said those who knew Silas referred to her as an incredible person.
Authorities gave few details at a Wednesday news conference. Sheriff Jack Campbell said six children were in the home and that several adults also lived there. He said it was unclear how much of the incident the children might have seen. They have been placed in protective custody.
The AFSCME union issued a statement calling it an unspeakable crime that must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"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," the statement read.
"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 said Silas joined DCFS in August 2021. Prior to that, she worked in behavioral health and for more than seven years with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Gov. J. B. Pritzker also issued a statement.
“Today, the State of Illinois mourns the loss of Deidre Silas, a DCFS caseworker and a hero, taken from us in the line of duty. There is no higher calling than the work to keep children and families safe and Deidre lived that value every single day. Our most vulnerable are safer because she chose to serve. I can think of no more profound legacy. MK and I send our deepest condolences to her colleagues at DCFS, her family, and all who loved her.”
The last DCFS worker to die in the line of duty was Pam Knight, who attempted to remove a two year old boy from a home in Milledgeville in 2017. The boy's father attacked her, causing severe injuries. She died a few months later.
The attacker, Andrew Sucher, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.