Joliet man gets life sentence for fatal firebombing that killed mother and 4-year-old daughter

October 26

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced Thursday that a Will County judge sentenced a Joliet man who firebombed a house and killed a mother and her 4-year-old daughter to life in prison.

A jury in August found Juan Santana, 28, of the 200 block of Illinois Street, Joliet, guilty on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson.

Santana threw a firebomb through a window of a house at 419 Madeline St. in Joliet’s St. Patrick’s Neighborhood in the early-morning hours of April 9, 2005. A fire spread quickly through the two-story house. Maria DeLourdes Nunez, 35, and her young daughter, Merary Nunez, died from smoke inhalation in an upstairs bedroom.

Firefighters found Nunez lying on top of Merary in what they believe was a desperate attempt to protect her daughter from the smoke and fire that engulfed the house after Santana and an alleged accomplice threw the firebomb through a first-floor window. Both Nunez and her daughter were dead by the time rescuers reached them.

Circuit Judge Richard Schoenstedt handed down the life sentence for the murder charges and 30 years for the arson charge.

Testimony during the six-day trial in August revealed that Santana firebombed the house because he believed one of Merary’s older brothers belonged to a rival gang. The brother, who was 14 at the time of the firebombing, testified he was a “pretend” gang member.

“Juan Santana crept up on a house under cover of night and lobbed a firebomb through a window,” Glasgow said. “This 28-year-old man planned a gutless act of retribution against a 14-year-old boy. Instead, his vicious act of violence claimed the lives of an innocent young mother and her daughter. The community can rest assured that this coward will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Nunez’s two sons were sleeping in the house when Santana and an accomplice threw the firebomb. One of the brothers tried to put out what started as a small fire, but he abandoned his efforts as flames and smoke spread, according to testimony.

Witnesses for the state put Santana and another man, Ignacio Jacobo, 20, of Joliet, at the scene of the firebombing. Jacobo is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson in connection with the firebombing.

One woman testified she saw two men running toward a white Jeep Cherokee with a red interior shortly after the house was firebombed. She memorized the license plate number and reported it to police, who traced the vehicle to its owner.

The owner of the Jeep testified during the trial that he had lent his vehicle to Santana, Jacobo and another man, Sergio Anguiano, 23, of Joliet, on the night of the firebombing. Anguiano, who testified for the prosecution, said he drove Santana and Jacobo to the scene. He testified he parked about a block away from the Nunez house but did not see the firebombing. Anguiano testified he did not know Santana and Jacobo intended to firebomb the house.

In exchange for his truthful testimony, Anguiano will be allowed to enter a blind plead of guilty to charges of aggravated arson. He faces up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

Two of Glasgow’s top prosecutors, First Assistant State’s Attorney Greg DeBord and Criminal Division Chief Lea Norbut-Sicinski, presented the state’s evidence in the case against Santana.

“These two first-class prosecutors left jurors no doubt as to who committed this horrible crime,” Glasgow said. “They deserve credit for taking a cold-blooded killer off our streets.”

He also praised Joliet police for conducting an investigation that led to Santana.

Jacobo’s case is pending in front of Judge Schoenstedt. The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that a charge is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lawrence Southwood: Daughter says father passed her off as wife in 15-year relationship

December 30,

The Wilmington man charged with repeatedly raping a teenage quadriplegic has fathered two children with his own daughter, his abused offspring revealed Thursday. 

“He made it look like we were husband and wife,” Susan Clelland said of her father, 68-year-old Lawrence Southwood, and the monstrous “marriage” he made for her. 

Some neighbors and acquaintances were aware of Southwood’s 15-year relationship with his daughter, but no one would help, even after her father twice got her pregnant, said Clelland, 45. 

“A lot of people don’t want to get involved,” Clelland said. 

“I cried for help after the son was born,” she said. “Nobody wants to help you out, so you kind of cry inside.” 

Clelland said her father made her his “wife” after he was released from Stateville Correctional Center, where he served time on an attempted murder rap. She was 17, and they kept house together in Channahon. 

The relationship was exposed by Channahon cop David Margliano, who arrested Southwood on a felony sex charge in 1992. 

Southwood pleaded guilty to the felony sexual relations within families charge. He was sentenced to 30 months probation and 400 hours public service, and he was fined $5,000. 

He also was ordered to stay away from the boy and girl he fathered. Clelland said she has not been able to see them much herself. 

“They don’t have too much to do with me because DCFS got involved,” she said of her 23-year-old daughter and son, 20, and involvement by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. 

Depsite the incestuous relationship, Clelland said her children suffered from no birth defects. 

“It (incest) has to go on for two or three generations,” she explained. 

In the most recent incident, Margliano, now a detective sergeant also in the employ of State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s office, took Southwood into custody on Christmas Day, charging him with raping a 14-year-old quadriplegic for the last nine months. 

Clelland said her father met the teen’s mother at a local truck stop. He baby-sat her three children, ran errands for her, and performed yardwork and maintenance, Clelland said. 

Clelland believes her father more than capable of carrying out the sex attacks on the quadriplegic teen as alleged by the state. She also thinks he may have raped and killed 3-year-old Riley Fox, the young Wilmington girl whose murder has gone unsolved for the last 18 months. 

Southwood’s DNA is being compared to samples found on the dead girl’s body, police said. 

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” she said. “I don’t know, but I honestly wouldn’t put anything past him.” 

Clelland said she now is happily married and living in Braidwood. She “hasn’t 100 percent forgiven” her father, but the two have maintained a relationship and last spoke a week ago, she said. 

If the charges against Southwood are borne out in court, Clelland believes her father should be locked up for life. 

“Let him stay in prison,” she said. “Let him stay there. He doesn’t need to get out.

Suspects face animal torture charges

December 16

JOLIET — The father and daughter charged with starving their puppy to death now face a felony count each of animal torture. 

Mark Obidowicz, 42, and his 18-year-old daughter, Nicole Obidowicz, first were arrested in October on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in connection with the death of Kira, a black husky. 

The charges were boosted to felony aggravated cruelty to an animal when they appeared together for a Nov. 17 court date, and on Thursday, State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced the father and daughter were indicted on a stiffer felony charge of animal torture. 

If convicted, both father and daughter could end up pulling two to five years in prison on the Class 3 felony. They “intentionally starved the Siberian husky named Kira,” according to court papers. 

“These allegations describe a horrible ordeal suffered by this husky, and we are preparing a vigorous prosecution of these charges,” Glasgow said.

Mark Obidowicz bought Kira as a 4-month-old puppy and gave her to his daughter as a gift. The daughter did not care for or regularly feed the dog, police said. She then moved out of their Crest Hill home at 1846 Springside Drive. 

A state-licensed investigator for the West Suburban Humane Society said that while Nicole Obidowicz moved out, she kept her place of residence at her father’s home and did return there frequently. 

Neither she nor her father fed the dog with any degree of regularity, said the investigator, who asked not to be named. The dog died Oct. 22 at about a year old, officials said. 

Mark Obidowicz buried the dog in a nearby cornfield, the investigator said. With help from Joliet Township Animal Control personnel, the dog was exhumed for a postmortem examination by a veterinarian, the investigator said. The dog weighed 17.2 pounds when it was purchased as a 4-month-old, the investigator said. When it was examined as a 1-year-old three days after its death, it weighed a tenth of a pound less, she said. 

The veterinarian’s examination also revealed feces on the dog’s coat and metal marks on its teeth, indicating it had attempted to chew its way out of its cage, she said. 

In announcing the charges, Glasgow professed his love for animals and spoke of the importance of protecting them. 

“There are a multitude of law enforcement studies and psychological treatises that clearly demonstrate the abuse of animals is a precursor to violence against human beings,” said Glasgow, who penned the animal torture statute. “This is why I made sure that a conviction for animal torture mandates a psychological examination with a report to the court regarding propensity for future abuse of animals leading to violent acts against people.” 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lobbied Glasgow to pursue the upgraded charges of animal torture in the case. Dan Paden of PETA’s Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department forwarded his organization’s Action Alert, which called for the public to contact Glasgow and ask for the more severe felony charge.

Four charged in $50,000 casino theft

November 6

JOLIET — Four people were arrested Friday and charged with stealing money from a Joliet casino, Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said. 

More than $50,000 was stolen in a scheme involving the use of fake cash vouchers at Harrah’s Riverboat Casino, 151 N. Joliet St., Glasgow said. State police also worked on the investigation. 

Jason E. Smith, 26, of Morris; Shrresime Sadiku, 28, of Nevada; Steven A. Klinker, 26, of Morris; and Azbi Memisovski, 25, of Countryside, were charged with theft. 

Police are looking for a fifth suspect, Glasgow said.

State’s Attorney Glasgow Wants Parents to Be Aware of Sex Offenders and Other Safety Tips at Halloween

October 28

Halloween is an exciting time of year and children can hardly wait to put on their costumes and fill their bags with candy. Unfortunately that excitement can sometimes make children, and adults, forget to be careful while they’re out having fun. 

State’s Attorney Glasgow wants to remind parents to be alert to the dangers that sex offenders may pose during Halloween activities and to know who lives in their neighborhood.

“Parents should know that sex offenders use holidays like Halloween to target children,” says Glasgow. The State’s Attorney urges parents to take a few minutes before their children go out trick or treating and check one of the online sex offender registries so they know if there are any offenders living in their area.

The Illinois State Police and the Will County Sheriff’s Department have websites where parents can check for registered sex offenders in any neighborhoods or where their children will be trick or treating. Glasgow added, “Parents can visit our Office website for the links, or if someone does not have access to a computer, I encourage them to call our Criminal Investigation Division at 815-727-8878 for the information. Also, computers are available at your local library.” 

“Trick or treating should create only good memories for our kids,” emphasizes Glasgow. “Parents need to be vigilant to ensure this Halloween will be a safe and enjoyable experience for their children.”

State’s Attorney Glasgow also asks parents to follow these safety tips:

Check with your local police department to see what the designated hours are for trick or treating and follow them. If there are no designated hours where they live, have the kids home before dark or no later than 7:00 p.m., whichever comes first.

If parents and children must go out after dark, stay in well-lighted areas and bring a flashlight. 

Older children should trick-or-treat with an adult or in a large group. Parents should map out a safe route and tell their children to stop only at familiar houses where the lights are on.

Young children should always trick-or-treat with a parent or trusted adult.

Children should wear costumes that can be seen in the dark. This will assist parents in chaperoning their children and safely alert passing motorists. Many stores sell glow-in-the-dark or reflective items that can be worn or carried while trick-or-treating. Costumes should also be flame-retardant and short enough to prevent tripping and falling. Avoid hard plastic or wood props, use foam rubber instead.

Parents should consider providing make-up instead of a mask. Masks can be hot and uncomfortable, and they can obstruct a child’s vision–a dangerous thing when kids are crossing streets and going up and down steps.

Stay within your neighborhood and only visit homes you know.

An adult should examine all treats before they are eaten. Eat only those treats that are un-opened and in their original wrappers. If you suspect that a treat has been tampered with, save it, and contact your local law enforcement agency.

Parents must warn their children that they should never enter anyone’s home or car while trick-or-treating. If someone tries to get them to come into their home or car, they should run away and immediately tell a trusted adult.

To find out the location of registered sex offenders in Will County, go to:

Internet Safety Class For Parents

October 12

The village of Channahon, Will County States Attorney, James W. Glasgow and Channahon Police Chief Steve Admonis, are sponsoring a class for parents to assist them in keeping their children safe on the Internet on October 19, 2005, Channahon Village Hall 7:00PM at 24555 Navajo Drive, Channahon, Illinois.

The Mayor of Channahon, Joe Cook, and Will County State’s Attorney, James W. Glasgow, will be present to answer questions. Detective Sergeant Dave Margliano, who is the High Tech Crime Child Exploitation Unit Expert for the State’s Attorney’s Office, will give the class along with Assistant State’s Attorney John R. Conner, Chief of the High Tech Crime Unit. If you have children who have Internet access, this is a must attend for you.

Thomas S. Pomykala guilty on two counts of reckless homicide

October 6

Will County State’s Attorney James W. Glasgow announced today that a Will County jury convicted Thomas S. Pomykala, 56, of Joliet on two counts of reckless homicide. The trial was head before the Hon Chief Judge Stephen D. White.

On February 21, 1999, Pomykala was driving a 1987 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon and struck an Oldsmobile 98 driven by Bernadine Pirc, 67 of Joliet. The accident happened at the intersection of Larkin Avenue and McDonough Street. 

Bernadine Pirc the grandmother of Taylor Nicole Pirc. Taylor 4 was killed in the accident. The Joliet Police Department arrested Pomykala at the scene. He submitted to a Breathalyzer result three and a half hours after the crash, resulting in a .21 breath alcohol, over twice the legal limit.

Dr Bryan Mitchell, the medical examiner, found that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the skull, resulting in immediate death to the four-year-old girl. 

In May 1999, another Will County jury convicted Pomykala on the same charges. The Illinois Supreme Court later overturned the verdict based on a jury instruction that had been tendered. They found the instruction to be unconstitutional. 

The second trial began in August 2003, which resulted in a mistrial, based on a statement of a state’s expert witness regarding Pomykala’s driving record. Judge White found that no double jeopardy had attached and that decision was affirmed by the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa, IL. 

Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Jones and Nicole Moore tried the case for the People. Jones has been on the case since 1999. 

“This guilty verdict will end the ordeal that Gary & Cristy Pirc have endured for the last 6 years. They can now focus all of their energies on the Taylor Pirc project they founded in their daughters honor”. James W. Glasgow Will County State’s Attorney said.

Larry D. Hall Found Guilty

September 30, 2005

Will County State’s Attorney office in conjunction with Joliet police Sgt. Michael Kljaich and Lt. Jim Stewart turned a cold case to a guilty verdict on a case that dates back to April 10, 1991 when Cyndi Lukas was robbed and murdered by Larry D. Hall. Because of DNA genetic material found on the cigarettes founded in Cyndi Lukas’s the victim’s car, and a great investigative team charges of robbery and murder were filed on Larry D. Hall. 

Cyndi Lukas was found on Manhattan Road near Sugar Creek Drive, less than a mile south of the Certified Foods Warehouse, a grocery store on South Richards Street where Larry D. Hall entered her unlocked Chevrolet Blazer while she was shopping. Lukas suffered a head injury and died on April 11, 1991.

A jury found Larry Hall guilty Thursday of the 1991 robbery and murder of Cyndi Lukas yesterday (September 29, 2005). 

Pleased with the conviction, Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow noted that other old murder cases soon might be solved. The state’s attorney’s office and the city of Joliet recently received a grant that will pay the salaries of employees who work on cold cases.

Neil Adams, who is chief of the felony division of the Will County State’s Attorney’s office, Greg DeBord and Jennifer Chang prosecuted the case.

Larry Hall’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 2, 2005 9:30 AM before judge Richard C. Schoenstedt.

Will County Children’s Advocacy Center 10-Year Anniversary Celebration/Fundraising Event

July 7

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow in collaboration with Grundy and Kendall County State’s Attorneys will hold an evening reception/fundraiser to celebrate the Children’s Advocacy Center’s 10 th anniversary of providing a child-friendly, victim sensitive environment to conduct investigations of child sexual and physical abuse. As Will County State’s Attorney in 1995, Glasgow established the center to assist child victims and their families in navigating the complex legal, medical, and child welfare maze, guiding them through each phase of the process.

The Center is excited to welcome Attorney General Lisa Madigan as Key-note speaker and the event will take place on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 from 5-7 p.m. at the beautiful Rialto Theater in downtown Joliet. Tickets are $50 per person which includes food and beverage. As a non-profit, 501c3 agency, the Center depends on grants, private donations and fundraising events to maintain these critical services. For more information, contact the Children’s Advocacy Center at 815-727-0710.

Kevin Fox released from custody

June 17

On or about June 6, 2004, Riley Fox disappeared from the family residence and was subsequently found murdered. During the June 7, 2004 autopsy of Riley Fox, certain samples were taken and placed into evidence. The forensic evidence in the case led to the conclusion that the victim was sexually assaulted contemporaneous with her murder. 

On October 26, 2004 the defendant made a statement to the police claiming knowledge of the circumstances of the victim’s death and he was arrested. During the five months between the time the evidence samples were taken, and the arrest of Kevin Fox, no DNA testing or comparisons were obtained by then State’s Attorney Tomczak.

On October 28, 2005 then State’s Attorney, Jeffrey Tomczak, appeared in open court and filed a criminal complaint against the defendant in this case announcing his intent to seek the death penalty. On February 25, 2005, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the defense team of Kathleen T. Zellner, Paul DeLuca, and Douglas H. Johnson agreed to a process for performing DNA comparison testing of the samples removed from the victim’s body and samples voluntarily obtained from the defendant.

At approximately 5:55 p.m. on June 16, 2005, the parties received a laboratory report from The Bode Technology Group, Inc. which stated that the samples obtained from the victim’s body contained DNA from an unknown male subject and excluded the defendant, Kevin Fox.

Based upon the DNA test results that exclude Kevin Fox as a possible donor of the samples obtained from Riley Fox’s autopsy, the People lack probable cause to continue to hold him on these charges and would be unable to meet our burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The State’s Attorney has advised the Will County Sheriff’s Office to refrain from commenting on this case, due to the fact that there is an ongoing investigation and a pending federal lawsuit.