Kankakee police never called DCFS after arresting Joliet murder suspect with her baby
BY JON SEIDEL, BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JANET LUNDQUIST Staff Reporters March 14, 2013 8:12PM
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:08PM
Bethany McKee sat calmly in the back of a Kankakee Police squad car two months ago, arrested in connection with the brutal murders of two men on Hickory Street in Joliet.
But McKee showed concern only when she pleaded with officers not to hand her 1-year-old daughter over to the baby’s father.
“Can you please make sure my baby goes back to my mom?” McKee asked after she was caught fleeing Will County. “Her dad cannot have her.”
McKee’s arrest was documented in a Kankakee police video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times through the Freedom of Information Act.
An officer answered her off camera and said it was up to the Department of Children and Family Services — Illinois’ child welfare agency.
“DCFS is getting contacted,” the officer said.
But no one ever called DCFS, an agency spokesman confirmed. Police said the child was given to her grandparents after McKee was captured with her daughter in tow and ultimately charged with the gruesome January stranglings of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins at 1121 N. Hickory St. in Joliet.
Three others are also charged: Joshua Miner, Adam Landerman and Alisa Massaro.
Illinois law requires mandated reporters — including police — to call DCFS if they believe there is a “substantial risk” of physical injury to a child, according to a DCFS training manual.
Now court records show the child is in the custody of her grandmother, Teresa McKee, in Shorewood — as Bethany McKee had hoped. Also in that southwest suburban home is the child’s grandfather, William McKee. He’s credited with reporting the murders to authorities, turning his own daughter in to the police and interrupting the suspects’ plan to dismember the victims’ bodies.
But court records show he also pleaded guilty in November 1995 to one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He admitted to a Will County judge he fondled a girl under the age of 13.
DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin said his agency would not place a child in a home with a convicted sex offender.
He said DCFS, before placing any child in a person’s custody, performs a home inspection and checks the backgrounds of the caregiver and anyone who would be living with the child.
Clarkin, citing Illinois law, said he could not answer questions about whether an investigation is underway.
Kankakee Police Chief Larry Regnier insisted this week there was no reason to call DCFS after his officers stopped Bethany McKee the day the victims’ bodies were found. He said McKee’s baby appeared to be in no danger, and the child’s grandparents were there to take her in.
“Why would we contact DCFS other than the mother was under arrest?” Regnier said.
The chief later referred to the Sun-Times’ questions as a “witch hunt” after he was told about William McKee’s criminal history.
Neither the child’s father nor McKee’s parents could be reached by the Sun-Times. Her attorney cited a standing gag order and declined to comment. But in an earlier interview, William McKee said Bethany McKee “was terrified” after the murders.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I don’t know that she’s guilty. This is not supposed to happen to any family. Nor is murder supposed to happen to any family. It’s terrible all around.”
Laimutis Nargelenas, of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and a former director of the Illinois State Police, said it’s recommended officers call DCFS.
“It’s a judgment situation, but usually we tell police officers, ‘protect yourself in these cases because if something does happen to this child, what steps did you take to be sure you put them in a safe environment?’” Nargelenas said.
DCFS should have been called, said Billie Larkin, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois. She said “that’s mandated reporting 101.”
“We may never know what went on in those officers’ heads that night,” Larkin said. “DCFS should always be called in a situation like that.”
It’s been two months since police said they caught Miner, Landerman and Massaro playing video games Jan. 10 at Massaro’s house on Hickory Street after Glover and Rankins were robbed and strangled there. A source confirmed that police reports allege Miner and Massaro had sex on the victims’ bodies, although the reports contain conflicting interviews with the suspects,
The suspects also talked about keeping the victims’ teeth as trophies, according to the reports.
There are questions about whether Bethany McKee’s child was in the home at the time of the murders. Authorities have either not returned calls or declined to comment, citing the gag order.
Bethany McKee allegedly left the crime scene before police arrived and called her father to tell him what happened. William McKee called Shorewood police, who alerted authorities in Joliet. They put the word out that his daughter may be headed to Kankakee.
Kankakee police wrote in reports they stopped a gold 2009 Dodge Caravan driven by Bethany McKee at about 5:20 p.m. on Jan. 10. A female infant — McKee’s daughter — was found in a child seat. She was taken to the police station for safekeeping until she could be picked up by relatives.
Police also said they searched a baby bag found in the car for a bottle or pacifier, but found none.
Regnier said McKee’s arrest was the extent of his department’s involvement with the Hickory Street murder case. When asked about his officer’s comment about DCFS on video, the Kankakee police chief said, “I don’t know what grounds he said that on.”
“We made a call to the grandparents,” Regnier said. “The grandparents came and got the child. We were done.”