Frightened of her husband and alarmed for her safety, Jennifer Gustafson recently began each day by alerting one of her friends she was fine.
But friends didn't get that message Thursday from the Hanover Park mother of two, and they soon learned the worst had indeed happened.
Gustafson, 40, was found slain in her Barr Court home during a well-being check by police at 10:45 a.m. Thursday. She was the victim of blunt force trauma to her head, authorities said.
The gruesome discovery came just one day after her husband, Jeffrey Ferrigan, was released from DuPage County jail on a domestic battery charge. Ferrigan, who has a long criminal history, was ordered to have no contact with Gustafson for 72 hours and to return to court on that charge Monday.
Authorities on Thursday named Ferrigan, a 50-year-old construction worker, a "person of interest" in connection with his wife's murder. No charges have been filed.
He is recovering from a gunshot wound at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet after a confrontation with Lockport police, the U.S. marshal's office, the Cook County sheriff's police and the DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force on the 300 block of West 16th Street in Lockport.
Lockport police said Ferrigan was armed with a knife Thursday evening and approached officers in a threatening manner. He refused to drop the knife and was subsequently shot, police said.
Ferrigan's condition and the extent of his injuries are unknown.
Gustafson's friends and co-workers are mourning the death of a woman they say lived for her 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, working to support the family as a bartender for the past 12 years at the Retro Bistro in Mount Prospect.
Restaurant co-owner Lorraine Barth described her as a bubbly person who was never in a bad mood and made others feel special.
"She was just an extremely bright, sweet, generous and all around awesome person," Barth said. "Her face lit up a room. She's irreplaceable."
Barth said Gustafson realized in recent weeks that she wanted to end her marriage with Ferrigan.
On Aug. 19, Ferrigan was charged with domestic battery related to an encounter with Gustafson. On Monday, Gustafson was granted an emergency order of protection against Ferrigan, according to DuPage County court records. It accused Ferrigan of harassment and ordered him to stay away from her and their two children.
Ferrigan was released from jail Wednesday with the additional warning to stay away from Gustafson, and Gustafson was found murdered Thursday.
"I think she thought she could handle it because she was a tough broad," Barth said. "But in the end she was scared of him."
Barth said lately Gustafson had been checking in with friends and co-workers each morning to let everyone know she was OK. It was her co-workers who requested police check on her after she didn't show up for work.
Ferrigan has had several previous run-ins with law enforcement.
On Feb. 5, both he and his wife were charged as a result of an investigation by the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a drug task force.
Gustafson was charged with possession of less than 30 grams of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia related to a plastic marijuana bong. On July 28, she pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Ferrigan was charged with bringing 10 pounds of marijuana into DuPage County for the purpose of distribution. The drugs had a street value of $52,000, police said.
Records indicate DuPage County Judge John Kinsella on April 21 reduced Ferrigan's bail to $150,000 after his attorney argued in a motion that Ferrigan would "return home to reside with his family" if released on a lower bond.
The filing listed him as a lifelong Illinois resident who wasn't a flight risk. It said he was a stay-at-home dad while Gustafson worked full time. His next court date in that matter is Sept. 1.
Defense attorney Michael Fleming, who represents Ferrigan in his cannabis case, said he was unaware of the homicide investigation until a reporter contacted him Friday.
Ferrigan spent time in prison more than 20 years ago.
In 1988, Ferrigan, then an Antioch resident, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide after he was involved in a head-on collision the previous year in Lake County. According to news reports at the time, the 27-year-old Ferrigan was trying to pass a pickup truck when his vehicle struck a car head-on, killing a female passenger and seriously injuring the driver.
Ferrigan, who was driving on a revoked license, also was charged with drunken driving and had an outstanding warrant for another drunken driving charge.
Lake County court records show he was sentenced to 30 months' probation and 18 months' work release in July 1988. However, he violated the terms of his probation and was sentenced to four years in prison, according to the records.
Ferrigan's relationship with Gustafson was volatile, with neighbor Mary Summers describing the couple as "loud people." But she was surprised to hear Gustafson was killed.
"When they would argue -- and they argued -- you could hear it," Summers said. "I'm shocked. I never would have expected violence. He never seemed like the type to lose it."
But Kim Stark, who described herself as a former neighbor and friend of Gustafson, said she was not surprised.
"She was scared," Stark said.
Painting a far different picture was Bob Heine, owner of Torque Excavating in Belvidere, who said he has worked with Ferrigan on and off for years. He said Ferrigan told him he had about 32 years of experience as a water and sewer laborer.
"I had some jobs lined up, and I'd always try and help him out here and there," said Heine, 50, of Elgin. "He seemed like a pretty decent guy. He showed up for work and did a decent job. He's a straight-shooter. He'd get right up always on time and worked like you don't see work done today."
Heine said he and Ferrigan worked together previously for a Downers Grove firm doing water and sewer excavating in Itasca. Heine said he offered to help Ferrigan with occasional employment after starting up his own company.
He said he did not know Ferrigan's family or wife personally.
• Daily Herald staff writers Jessica Cilella, Tony Gordon and Eric Peterson contributed to this report.