21-year sentence handed man who killed child welfare worker

MOUNT CARROLL, Ill. (AP) - A man charged with murder in the death of an Illinois child welfare worker entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced Wednesday to 21 years in prison.

Andrew Sucher, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound weightlifter, was accused of attacking Department of Children and Family Services worker Pamala Knight, 59, when she tried to take a child into protective custody in September 2017. Knight, who worked out of the agency's Sterling office, learned the child was with Sucher, who was accused of abusing a six-year-old and was under court orders to stay away from the 2-year-old.

Knight went to the toddler's paternal grandparent's home in Milledgeville without police protection because no officer was available. After she got out of her automobile, Sucher, then 25, pushed the woman to the ground and allegedly kicked her in the head, fracturing her skull and causing brain damage. Knight died about 5 months later.

Under the deal entered into by his public defenders and the Carroll County state's attorney's office, Sucher will serve 100 percent of his sentence.

Don Knight, the victim's husband, told Sauk Valley Media that prosecutors entered into the plea deal because the medical examiner won't be able to testify with certainty that Sucher's kicks, not a fall before she as kicked, caused her death. There was concern Sucher might be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and serve only two to five years in prison, he said.

"Justice wasn't served here for her today," Knight said. "This terrible tragedy will be with us for the rest of our lives. My family's loss is permanent."

As a result of Pamala Knight's death, a law was passed in 2018 by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner requiring law enforcement agencies "to make all reasonable efforts to assist" DCFS investigators when requested. It also allows officers to cross jurisdictions to provide that protection.

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