Pam Lawson says neighbors were wary of Paul Johnson.
Many residents of the Garden Quarter Townhomes knew his extensive criminal past. Lawson, who has lived in the West Elgin townhouse complex for more than a decade, says she was more careful about locking her home and car, and told her children not to talk to Johnson when she noticed he had moved back in during the summer.
But after the March 2 murder of Lisa Koziol-Ellis, she ratcheted up her family's personal security.
Lawson didn't let her 11- and 12-year-old son and daughter out of the house to play with friends. She wouldn't let them walk to stores by themselves. She watched them all the way from their front door to the school bus and back again.
Even then, when she learned Monday that Johnson had been charged with breaking into Koziol-Ellis' home with a screwdriver, then using it to fatally stab her, Lawson was stunned.
"I knew he was the criminal type," she said. "But I would never think something like this."
Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said the department had extra patrols in the neighborhood from March 2 until Johnson's arrest on Friday. It was a police presence neighbors noticed and, in many cases, appreciated.
Outside of the past 17 days, Lawson said the Garden Quarter neighborhood is a calm one, something confirmed by Elgin police.
Theriault said the stable, cohesive nature of the neighborhood stretches beyond the townhouses to the apartment complex down the street. Many people in the area, like Lawson, have lived there for years.
"It was a real plus for this neighborhood during this tragic time to find some solace within each other due to their familiarity," Theriault said.
Lawson's faith in her neighborhood wasn't shaken by the tragedy. She describes it as a place where people know each other and keep an eye on each other's things. She called Johnson a "bad seed" in an otherwise peaceful community.
And just days after he was taken into custody, Lawson's son Jacob was outside playing with a friend from the nearby apartments, enjoying his recovered freedom on a block where police patrols were back to normal levels.
Lawson said she is just happy the wait is over.
"It's a relief, but it's sickening how close it was," Lawson said. "This is the kind of thing that you watch on the news, not something that happens so close."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.