Illinois child protection worker fatally stabbed; suspect charged

THAYER, Ill. — An investigator with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was fatally stabbed while visiting a home Tuesday, authorities said.

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Deidre Silas, 36, of Springfield, was attacked around 4 p.m. CST as she was checking on six children, ages 1 to 7, in a home in Thayer, a small town about 20 miles south of Springfield, according to the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.

None of the children were injured and they were taken into protective custody, WLS-TV reported.

“As you know, social work is more than just a job, it is a calling. Deidre responded to this call and dedicated herself to the children, families and communities she served,” the DCFS said in the letter to workers, according to WMAQ-TV. “She was an incredible person, and her brightness and positivity will be missed by not only her family and friends, but also her second family at DCFS.”

“There’s not one person in her life that she interacted with that did not fall in love with her immediately,” Silas’ husband, Andre Silas, told WICS-TV.

“She (was) a go-getter, she (fought) for the people who can’t fight, and she lost her life on the job,” Deidre Silas’ father, Roy Graham, told the television station.

Later Tuesday, police in Decatur arrested Benjamin Reed, 32, in connection with the stabbing, WCIA-TV reported. Officers located him at a hospital in Decatur where he was seeking medical treatment for a minor wound, the television station reported,

Sangamon County detectives traveled to Decatur and interviewed Reed about the incident.

Reed lived in the house where Silas was found, WLS reported.

After being treated, Reed was taken to the Sangamon County Jail, The State Journal-Register reported.

Silas had just begun working for DCFS last August after spending more than seven years with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents state workers.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of ... Deidre Silas of Springfield, murdered Tuesday while responding to a report of children in danger,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “The perpetrator of this unspeakable crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder that frontline DCFS employees like Deidre do demanding, dangerous and essential jobs every day, often despite inadequate resources and tremendous stress.”

Silas has two young children, WCIA reported.

In a statement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called Silas a hero.

”There is no higher calling than the work to keep children and families safe and Deidre lived that value every single day,” Pritzker said. “Our most vulnerable are safer because she chose to serve. I can think of no more profound legacy.”