Family says 'mysterious circumstances' in teen's death at Allendale
Family members of a 16-year-old Chicago boy found dead at the Allendale Association campus in Lake Villa said Friday they have more questions than answers about their loved one's death.
Their attorney, Cannon Lambert Sr., said at a Chicago news conference that Shaquan Allen was found dead in "very mysterious circumstances" and that the family has been given three versions of what happened Wednesday night at the private residential treatment center serving children and adolescents with moderate to profound emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Lambert said he believes Allendale "is responsible for the occurrence."
The attorney said authorities have told him there are two suspects in custody. Lambert declined to reveal additional details of the investigation at the request of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.
Det. Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the task force, confirmed two adults are in custody. Both will appear in bond court at 9 a.m. Saturday, according to a news release from the Lake County's sheriff's office. Neither suspect was identified, but a news conference will follow the court hearing.
Shaquan Allen's mother, Willie Mae Allen, said an employee at Allendale who befriended her son advised her to seek an attorney.
"I wanna know how could this happen to my baby, and nobody is telling me anything to let me know what's really going on," she said. "He was only 16 years old. I didn't send him there for that. I sent him to get help, because I didn't want to lose him to the streets."
Allendale officials did not return messages seeking comment Friday. An Allendale official said Thursday the entire staff was "saddened beyond words" and was cooperating with the investigation.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is also investigating.
"Any time we lose a child, under any circumstance, we are devastated. Right now DCFS is in its initial stages of an investigation," DCFS Director George H. Sheldon said. "We are gathering all the facts and are working with authorities and Allendale officials to get to the bottom of this incident."
The state agency has staff on site to help the other children there deal with the trauma of Allen's death, spokeswoman Veronica Resa said. It has put a hold on Allendale accepting any new children for the time being, she added.
Resa said "Allendale is not a problematic facility" and doesn't have a history of serious issues.
Lake Villa police and rescue were called to the Allendale campus at 9:58 p.m. Wednesday for the report of an injury. The 16-year-old resident was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was pronounced dead at 11:10 p.m.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday by the Lake County coroner's office, but no findings have been released. The family plans to have an autopsy of its own done as well.
Willie Mae Allen said her son had been receiving treatment at Allendale for three years. She believes his behavioral problems were due, in part, to the loss of his father, who died in 2007.
Though he was a ward of the state, he came home from time to time, and his mother said she often went to Allendale to take part in family counseling sessions with her son.
She said she last spoke with Shaquan two days before his death, and he talked about coming home for spring break.
Allendale was founded in 1897. The youth and their families receive care and treatment through the residential treatment programs, day treatment special education schools or from community-based clinical programs and services, according to its website.
The organization says more than 1,200 clients between the ages of 7 and 18 are served annually. The Lake Villa campus has residential services for 150 clients and a school with an enrollment of 200 students. It also has homes or community-based centers in Wisconsin, Highland Park and Waukegan.
• Daily Herald staff writers Lee Filas and Mike Riopell contributed to this report