Gail Peck kept pictures of her son Brian in drawers all over her bedroom -- in her nightstand, among her clothes, in yellowed photo albums.
The 76-year-old woman displayed one special photo -- Brian smiling in a black suit and tie, Gail glowing in a sequined gown and sparkling necklace -- in a frame on her dresser, likely a reminder of happier times before her troubled son turned violent.
How to get help when abuse is suspectedAnyone can report suspected abuse, financial exploitation or neglect of an older person, or of a person older than 18 with disabilities.
There were 15,924 reports of abuse received from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department on Aging.
To file a report, call the department's 24-hour adult protective services hotline at (866) 800-1409.
Gail Peck and her 55-year-old son moved to Elgin in late August. Her loved ones worried about her safety.
"We had urged her to distance herself from Brian. It was not only her family but her friends, too," her cousin Dennis "Doc" Pascual said.
"I always had a bad feeling after the incident where he tried to kill her the first time," Gail Peck's niece Marie said. "I had told her, 'Get out of there. Come to me.' But she felt a responsibility for taking care of him."
Brian Peck was charged with his mother's murder after her body parts were found Oct. 30 in a Chicago lagoon.
Cook County prosecutors said she was killed Oct. 25 during an argument about the volume of his Jimi Hendrix music. Brian Peck told police he knocked his mother down, stomped on her head and used a handsaw to cut up her body in a bathtub.
Brian Peck is being held without bail and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder last Friday.
Why would Gail Peck let her son, who'd assaulted her at least once, continue living with her?
"She never expressed it directly to me, but the only reason, I think, is motherly love," Pascual said. "That was her only child."
History of trouble
Gail Peck was a caring woman with a strong spirit, family members recalled on a recent Thursday as they sorted through her belongings in her townhouse.
Asian-inspired ornaments and lacquered furniture adorned the living room, a Mickey Mouse clock hung by the front door. Police investigators left behind chemical spatters and ripped up floors and bathroom plumbing.
Gail Peck had a small family -- two siblings, her niece and cousin -- and a lot of friends. She loved to read mystery books and go on cruises. She was a breast cancer survivor.
"She was very loving, a people person," said the 80-year-old Pascual. "We were very close. We spoke every week our whole lives."
"She was always joking, kidding. Always free-spirited and positive," said Marie, who lives abroad and asked that her last name not be used.
Gail Peck moved from her home of 20 years in Oak Brook because she had to avoid stairs after back surgery. Her son lived in the basement, where he kept two guitars, an amplifier, a speaker and other musical equipment.
Money was tight because she'd depleted a retirement account to help her son, Pascual said. "She had always bailed him out financially and gave him moral support when he needed it," he said.
She had a career as a Realtor and raised her son alone after divorcing his father, who moved to California and has since died, Pascual said. "(Brian) never had a father figure," said Pascual's wife, Beverly.
Brian Peck had substance abuse issues and started getting in trouble with the law in adulthood, relatives said.
He was fired from his job as a bill collector in 2003 after his employer discovered he wasn't turning over funds, according to an Oak Brook police report in 2004. His criminal history included larceny, fraudulent activity and "dangerous drugs."
Prosecutors said he racked up six felony and four misdemeanor convictions, including sentences of two years in prison in 2009 for computer fraud and identity theft. He was sentenced to 146 days in jail for aggravated battery of a Lombard firefighter in 2013.
Caroline Glennon, the Cook County assistant public defender representing Brian Peck, didn't return a request for comment.
Brian Peck struggled with depression and anxiety, and vented his frustrations on his mother, getting into explosive arguments with her often overheard by neighbors, Pascual said. "Time and time again she would ask him to leave," he said, "and he would beg to come back."
The Pascuals moved from Downers Grove to Indiana five years ago and tried to get Gail Peck to join them, but she refused.
It's not uncommon for parents, especially when alone or older, to let their dysfunctional or abusive children continue living at home -- out of love, concern or necessity, said Bette Schoenholtz, executive director of Senior Services Associates, a nonprofit based in Elgin.
"The parent has a hard time telling the child they can't be there," she said. "This was her only child. She would have really struggled with wanting to help and at the same time knowing she was at risk."
Violence at home
DuPage County sheriff's officers responded to domestic calls in 2012 and 2016 at Gail Peck's home in Oak Brook, records show. Both times, she got orders of protection against her son. Both times, she took him back.
She told deputies in 2012 her son called her foul names and kicked tables and doors during an argument about missing pages in her cookbook. She also said he had "financially destroyed her."
In March 2016, she said her son struck her in the face, threatened to kill her and put her in a choke hold after they argued over him playing loud music, records show.
He pleaded guilty to domestic battery in June 2016 and was sentenced to 100 days in jail and two years probation.
She vowed to never see him again. He cajoled his way back a few months later, for what would be the last time.
"She loved her son so much that she thought she could handle it. She could turn him around," Pascual said.
Victims caught in the cycle of domestic violence often want to believe their abusers when they beg for forgiveness, said Maureen Manning, director of client services for the Community Crisis Center in Elgin.
"Familial reasons, religious reasons, financial reasons ... there are many reasons why the victim may want to forget and believe he wants to change this time."
It's unclear if Gail Peck or her son went to counseling. Relatives said they think not.
Brian Peck's 2016 conviction required him to get an evaluation and any counseling deemed appropriate by the probation department. DuPage County officials would not disclose additional information, stating probation records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Domestic violence research shows danger increases exponentially after an episode of strangulation, Manning said. "We know that domestic violence is progressive, and with no intervention, with no treatment, it will increase in frequency and severity."
When elderly adults are victims of domestic battery, adult protective services is notified by law enforcement, said Michael Dropka, communications director for the Illinois Department on Aging. The department cannot disclose information on specific cases, and competent adults can refuse services, Dropka said.
Gail Peck's relatives said they did all they could to persuade her to stay away from her son.
"A good person was taken from us," her cousin said. "It never needed to happen."