Chained in a Crystal Lake Fire

The Northwest Herald is reporting a really strange fire call on Crystal Lake’s West End.

A 55-year old man was found chained by the neck in a burning home at 398 Dolo Rosa Vista, Jim Butts’s story says.

Most will ask themselves, “What on earth was going on?”

After that brief thought, my mind went to the girl who died while chained to a bed in her apartment.

“At least this was not another DCFS screw-up,” I thought.

Here’s the story on that which ran November 29, 2006:

DCFS Fails to Prevent Crystal Lake Teen Death

My fellow Crystal Lake Kiwanians probably did not understand why I was so intense in my questioning of McHenry County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Executive Director Kelly Pokharel.

One of my emotional hot buttons got pushed.

It started in 1979, early in Jim Thompson’s term as governor.

During that spring a teenage died in the Uteg apartments south of Route 14 where the Pizza Hut is located.

This child, a girl, I believe, was chained to her bed. She died because of a fire.

That was bad enough, but it got worse when Crystal Lake Police Chief Sam Johns told me

You don’t know the worst part, Cal.

We called DCFS 30 days before the fire.

Rules for Department of Children and Family Services caseworkers require a home inspection within 24 hours of a complaint

The last time I saw a compliance figure, DCFS met that goal 98-99% of the time.

So, I was dumbfounded that a caseworker would ignore a complaint from a police department. After all, this was not from some anonymous source, as many of its complaints are.

I was angry.

I called the Thompson-appointed DCFS Director Greg Coler (who served from 1979-83), demanding an investigation. He agreed.

Time passed and I eventually remembered that I had not heard back from Kolar.

I remember calling him from my office, an old auto dealership building on the southeast corner of Woodstock and Brink Streets across from Crystal Lake’s train station.

Yes, he had done an investigation.

I asked if the caseworker had been fired.

She hadn’t been.

“She’s the best caseworker we’ve got,” Coler told me.

It turns out that she had been given a promotion. She was supervising others.

I was incensed.

After that conversation whenever we would attend receptions in Springfield, he invariably gravitated to the other side of the room…even more than a decade later.

And, after that, I took the “good intentions” of DCFS with more than one grain of salt.

So, it really wasn’t a huge surprise when I saw the Belvidere News-Democrat series DCFS screw-ups that had horrendous consequences.

More on that tomorrow.

But, first another pitch to volunteer with CASA. While such volunteers are unlikely to be assigned children in life threatening circumstances, they do have the opportunity to be a citizen check and balance on DCFS. I think that is needed.

The CASA office is located at 110 S. Johnson, Suite 211, on the Woodstock square. The phone number is 815-206-4585. The web site is

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Coler’s photo comes from the DCFS web site.

I have one other question. Why wasn’t the Lakewood Fire Department involved in putting out the fire? It has the second closest station.

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