Bond set at $5M for man accused of murder of welfare worker checking child home

The bond was set at $5 million for a man arrested and charged with the murder of an Illinois welfare worker who was stabbed Tuesday during a visit home.

Benjamin Reid, 32, was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint for allegedly stabbing and killing Deirdre Silas, 36, of the state’s Children and Family Services Investigation Department.

Sangmon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said Wednesday that Silas was reportedly conducting a welfare check on at least one of the children living in the home when Reed attacked her.

Campbell said officers arrived at the home Thursday afternoon and broke into the house after seeing blood near the door, where they found Silas dead.

Police obtained a search warrant, which led to them finding Reed at a nearby hospital hours later, where he underwent treatment for a cut on his arm before being taken to the Sangamon County Jail.

Six children of unknown age were also found in the home, although Campbell said he was not sure anyone had witnessed the incident that led to Silas’ death. He also said that he was in protective custody at the time of the press conference on Wednesday.

Officials believe at least one of the children is related to Reed and that several adults are likely to be living in the home, Campbell said.

Springfield, Ill. In this photo provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office, Benjamin H. Reed shows. Reid has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in connection with the stabbing death of DCFS child-welfare activist Deirdre Silas, 36.
AP. Via Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office

Thayer, the town where the home was located, is about 23 miles south of Springfield.

Sangamon County State Attorney Dan Wright said the sentence could be commuted to life in prison if the court found Silas’ death conduct to be “extraordinarily cruel, heinous, and blatantly cruel.”

But in a late Wednesday news conference, Wright avoided questions about why Silas was coming home, why she went alone and whether there was any suspected danger, saying the responses were “relevant enough to the investigation that It’s not fair to answer those questions.”

Disappointed members of the Silas family, including his 61-year-old father Roy Graham, who brought Deirdre from Jamaica when she was 10 years old. He watched the married mother of two develop her love for helping high school kids, guiding grades. Volunteering for Schoolchildren and SPARK, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Why are you really attacking my daughter? I don’t understand why you would do that,” Graham said after the then-news conference. “I know she must be begging for her life. Why? She didn’t come to talk to you… This is cruel, mischievous, hardcore stuff.”

DCFS director Mark Smith said the last investigator to be killed on duty was about four years ago. Smith said the agency trains its employees to deal with a variety of situations, including moving into unstable environments. He said staff members decide whether to go alone, in pairs or to call for police protection.

“In this tragic situation, the family we were there to help reacted negatively to our presence,” Smith said. “We are not abdicating any responsibility. We take responsibility for all of our employees as well as the children and families we serve. We will continue to work, we will continue to improve our policies and procedures. “

According to a statement from Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents DCFS employees, Silas joined the Department of Juvenile Justice in August after working in the area of ​​behavioral health for seven years.

AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch said, “This tragedy is a stark reminder of how frontline DCFS workers like Deidre perform demanding, dangerous and necessary work every day, often despite insufficient resources and tremendous stress.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.