DuPage homicides on record pace, but officials say it won't last

The year has gotten off to an unusually violent start in DuPage County, where law enforcement officials already have responded to as many homicides - five - as they did in all of last year and half as many as in all of 2015.

But the county's top prosecutor and coroner say that while they're disappointed to have any homicides at all, the five registered by Jan. 30 is hardly a reliable predictor for the rest of the year.

Officials said they can't recall a time when the county - traditionally one of the safest of its size in the nation - has started a year averaging a homicide a week.

"It's unfortunate and unusual, no question about it," Coroner Richard Jorgensen said Wednesday. "But I certainly don't think it's something that is or should be predictive of an entire year."

Included in that number is the Jan. 2 shooting of a teen by a DuPage County deputy near Villa Park, which is still under investigation by the Illinois State Police, and the Jan. 27 unsolved shooting death of Matthew Lange in the Will County portion of Naperville. Lange's death figures in, Jorgensen said, because Lange was taken to and pronounced dead in a DuPage County hospital.

State's Attorney Robert Berlin said DuPage has averaged barely more than 11 homicides a year since 1993, a number that's "remarkably low" for a county of 917,000 people.

He also said it's unfair to take a single month's figures and "extrapolate them through the year."

"Despite the recent increase in domestic violence incidents that resulted in murder, DuPage County continues to be one of the safest counties in the United States to live and raise a family," Berlin said. "And I believe that is a credit to the phenomenal law enforcement we have throughout the county and the job my office does prosecuting those cases. I think that makes a difference."

Berlin said the county's domestic violence protocol, which is followed by every police department in DuPage, clarifies the responsibilities and supports the efforts of law enforcement officers to provide immediate assistance and protection for victims of domestic violence, while also enabling his office to "promptly and diligently" enforce court orders which prohibit abuse.

"Despite obstacles such as reluctant victims and witnesses who are often hesitant to testify against their abuser because of fear of retribution, the state's attorney's office continues to aggressively prosecute incidents of domestic violence," Berlin said.

Jorgensen's website lists the number of homicides in the county by year since 1993 but also includes how many of them are "domestic related" between 1993 and 2006. There are no such figures available from 2007 through the present.

According to Jorgensen's numbers, 61, or 38.6 percent, of the 158 homicides recorded during that 13-year period were "domestic related."

"Almost all homicides are domestic related and are related to wives and husbands and people who know each other and those are unpredictable," Jorgensen said. "That's as opposed to what they have in Chicago where their homicides are mostly gang- and drug-related."

In addition to Trevon Johnson and Matthew Lange, January's other homicide victims were 49-year-old Tina Stevanovic, who was found dead in her Glendale Heights home of multiple gunshot wounds; 49-year-old James Murray, who died of multiple blunt force trauma on Jan. 18 near Glen Ellyn; and 58-year-old Erin Leinweber, who was suffocated and assaulted on Jan. 30 in her Wheaton home.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen

DuPage County homicides

2016: 5

2015: 10

2014: 13

2013: 10

2012: 13

2011: 9

2010: 18

2009: 14

2008: 6

2007: 11

2006: 11

2005: 13

2004: 15

2003: 9

2002: 12

2001: 10

2000: 5

1999: 12

1998: 10

1997: 7

1996: 7

1995: 23

1994: 8

1993: 16

Source: DuPage County Coroner's office

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