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updated: 3/22/2013 6:42 PM

Dozens gather to mourn Palatine family killed in crash

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  • Jenny Perez

      Jenny Perez

 

With every gentle knock on the front door, Lupe Perez feels both comfort and dread.

Knowing how many people loved her mother, sister and nephew brings the Palatine woman solace. But the steady stream of condolences also means this isn't a nightmare from which to wake.

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"I appreciate everyone coming over, but I'm still waiting for my mom to come through the door," Perez, 22, said. "When people say they're sorry, it makes it more real."

Three generations were lost in an instant.

Angelina Felix, 57, her daughter, Jenny Perez, 19, and grandson Roberto Perez, 2, were killed Thursday when their 2000 Mitsubishi Gallant drove into the path of a delivery truck on Peace Road in Sycamore. All were pronounced dead at the scene.

Lt. Andy Sullivan of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office said it doesn't appear Jenny Perez, who was driving, realized she had drifted across the centerline into the southbound lane. There were no skid marks from her car or signs she tried to avoid the head-on collision.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said an independent witness came forward with an account that corroborated the physical evidence.

"We have no idea why she crossed over," Scott said, adding that all the victims wore proper safety restraints.

The driver, 27-year-old Reid Robert Anderson, told police and his co-workers at the Elburn Cooperative farm supply and grain merchandising company that he desperately tried to alert the oncoming driver.

"He was honking, slowing down and trying to get out of the way as much possible, but it was hard because there was a drop-off and he was maneuvering a truck," General Manager Jim Husk said. "This is a tragedy on so many levels, and we offer our deepest sympathies to both family and Reid."

Scott said no citations will be issued.

Maribel Perez saw firsthand the aftermath of the crash.

She had planned to meet her family in Sycamore to bring the ID card her mother forgot at home. Angelina needed it to visit her husband, also Jenny's father, who's an inmate at the Dixon Correctional Center.

Maribel Perez said that despite the many questions, she's certain her sister wasn't on the phone at the time of the crash. Police found her cell in the back seat.

"When I called and called and they didn't pick up, I figured it was because Jenny was driving," Maribel said. "She always tried to be safe. Then I saw the accident."

Maribel, Lupe and countless other friends and family spent Friday crowding together on couches, around tables and even the floor, wavering between tears and laughter as they shared stories.

Angelina, they agreed, was the caregiver. She returned from Zacatecas, Mexico, a couple weeks ago after tending to her dying father. She was a stay-at-home mom and always insisted visitors eat or at least take home some food.

"She was really religious," Lupe Perez said. "We joked that she had more crosses and Jesus (figurines) than a church, but she just told us it was important to believe."

Jenny was a young mom who couldn't be separated from her son. She worked in the deli department at Eurofresh on Northwest Highway and was a student at Harper College in Palatine with Maribel, just a few weeks shy of completing the Certified Nursing Assistant program.

Relatives said Jenny considered herself lucky because she and Roberto's father were starting to look at engagement rings. Though she lived in a nearby apartment, she came to her mother's home most mornings to visit.

"She was hardworking and wanted to make more money to provide for (Roberto)," Lupe said. "She and (her boyfriend) worked different shifts so someone could always watch their son. She was motivated by him and always worried about giving him the best."

"Bebito," as most called the toddler, was a little clown who loved to wrestle, joke around and gnaw on his blanket.

"All the girls loved him," Lupe said.

One of the many visitors to chime in with a story Friday was Fremd High School social worker Kim Filian, who grew close to the entire family over the years. She gave them a collection taken up by staff and faculty to help with funeral expenses. Services are pending.

Filian described Jenny as sweet, quiet and the most motivated of her siblings when it came to education. Once she became pregnant her senior year, she worked hard and graduated early, Filian said.

"This family has never had it easy," Filian said. "They've dealt with many tribulations, but they were very close. (Angelina) always pushed for education and appreciated the support we offered. You can't help but develop an affinity for certain families, and they were one of them for me."

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