Family, police search for answers in 22-year-old mystery
By Janet Lundquist Sun-Times Media October 5, 2012 11:18PM
In this handout photo, the Abrams family from top to bottom are Barbara Abrams(mom), Donna Abrams, Jody Abrams, Karen Abrams, and their missing sister, Robin Abrams, before the Will County Take Back the Night rally at First Assembly of God church in Joliet, IL on Thursday October 4, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2013 10:07PM
The story of Robin Abrams’ disappearance has the elements of a riveting crime novel.
Sex, damage, fear. And, finally, the mystery.
Abrams, 28, a former Will County sheriff’s officer, vanished Oct. 4, 1990. Her family said she left her parents’ Beecher home in the early evening that day for a night out and never came home.
Some believe the events leading up to her disappearance actually remove some of the mystery surrounding it.
Abrams was the youngest of four sisters. She grew up in Orland Park, where her father worked as a police officer for about 10 years. Her parents later moved to Beecher.
She graduated from Sandburg High School and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Governors State University.
While she was in school, Abrams worked at several McDonald’s restaurants. Her relationship with Tony Marquez began at the McDonald’s in Frankfort.
Marquez was a Will County sheriff’s auxiliary officer who struck up a friendship with Abrams in 1987 that allegedly led to an affair with Marquez, who was married. He convinced her to go to the police academy and apply for a job at the sheriff’s department.
Abrams wanted a career in law enforcement, her sister, Jody Walsh, said.
“Her take on life was to help other people,” she said. “What better way than to be a police officer?”
Abrams was appointed a sheriff’s officer in January 1988.
During 1988, Abrams’ relationship with Marquez soured. Will County court records show that Abrams accused Marquez of hitting her in the face on Oct. 6, 1988.
She was terminated from the sheriff’s department in December 1988, weeks before she finished her first year of probation.
Then, according to court records, things began to heat up between Abrams and Marquez.
Abrams claimed that on March 18, 1989, Marquez smashed up a vehicle while Abrams was behind the wheel and her mother, Barbara, was in the passenger seat.
A charge of criminal damage to property against Marquez was dismissed in April 1989. Prosecutors said they did not believe they had enough evidence to obtain a conviction, according to records.
Over the summer of 1989, Marquez filed multiple complaints, saying Abrams was calling him and showing up to harass him at his home and his business.
She was arrested several times that summer, including a disorderly conduct arrest in May 1989. She was arrested in August 1989 for reckless driving after Marquez claimed she tried to run him off the road.
A criminal complaint was never filed by prosecutors in the disorderly conduct case. A jury found Abrams not guilty of reckless driving in October 1989.
Then, in the fall of 1989, the pattern appears to shift.
Court records show Abrams and her mother were granted an order of protection from Marquez in November 1989.
In her petition for the order, Abrams wrote that Marquez falsely accused her of crashing her vehicle into his vehicle as well as calling him and following him.
Abrams and her mother were afraid of Marquez and claimed that he carried a gun and abused his position as an auxiliary officer, the petition says. The Abrams’ order of protection was extended for a year until Nov. 27, 1990.
Once she had the order and her misdemeanor cases had been dismissed or closed, Abrams addressed her lost job.
On Dec. 13, 1989, she filed a federal lawsuit against Marquez and seven other members of the sheriff’s department alleging sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Marquez filed one last complaint against Abrams in January 1990, saying she threatened to hit him.
That charge was dismissed less than three months later.
Abrams was scheduled to give a deposition in the lawsuit on Oct. 22, 1990, but then she disappeared.
Her family called the sheriff’s department on the morning of Oct. 5, 1990, to report her missing. Abrams’ red Dodge Daytona was found hours later in a neighborhood in Harvey.
The car was locked, but the keys were still in the ignition. Someone found her purse, minus her credit cards, the following day in a residential area near where her car was found.
Because of Abrams’ pending federal lawsuit, the investigation into her disappearance was turned over to the state police. The investigation eventually went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.
About seven months after she disappeared, Marquez and his brother, John Romo, were served with Will County grand jury subpoenas. The grand jury investigating Abrams’ disappearance wanted the men to stand in a witness lineup and provide hair and blood samples, fingerprints and palm prints.
Marquez and Romo fought the subpoena, and eventually the high court agreed with them.
Since Marquez and Romo were not charged with a crime and no one had testified that they had committed a crime, it was unreasonable to request the samples, the opinion states.
Will County prosecutors, led by then-State’s Attorney Edward Burmila, believed Abrams was a homicide victim.
“Hopefully they’ll make an arrest some day,” Burmila, who is now a Will County Circuit Court judge, said in a late September interview.
At his Elwood home Friday, a reporter told Marquez he was working on a story about Abrams.
Marquez emphatically said, “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Zero,” and went back into his house.
Abrams’ case remains open. No one, including Marquez and Romo, has been charged in connection with her disappearance.
State police, who are investigating the 22-year-old case along with the FBI, declined to comment on the case, which they said was “currently pending.”
A request under the Freedom of Information Act for state police reports on the investigation was denied, and the denial is being reviewed by the Illinois attorney general’s office.
The Will County sheriff’s department also denied a FOIA request for all of the department’s reports involving Abrams. That denial also is being reviewed by the attorney general.
Abrams’ federal lawsuit was dismissed on Jan. 9, 1991, because her whereabouts were unknown.
Walsh, of Crestwood, has a massive file of paper documenting the last few years of Abrams’ life.
“That was my sister,” Walsh said. “She was a person. I want to know. I want answers for this.”
The last time there appeared to be public movement on the case was in the mid-1990s.
In 1995, state police dug up the basement of a house in Joliet searching for Abrams’ remains. Investigators reportedly believed her body was buried in the foundation of the house, which was built around the time she disappeared.
At that time, Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said there was “a mountain of circumstantial evidence” in the Abrams case.
Glasgow this week declined to comment on the case because it is an open investigation.
He said, however, that the Abrams case files never were moved to storage and his office is following up on new information and planning to interview some people connected to the case.
Walsh refuses to give up on her quest to get answers — and justice — for her sister.
“Robin was the kind of person who would help anyone,” she said. “She was always there for her family.”