Sheriff: Daughter was smothered in murder-suicide

  • Investigators look over the scene where a woman was killed by a train Tuesday. Her 7-year-old daughter was later found dead at their home.

      Investigators look over the scene where a woman was killed by a train Tuesday. Her 7-year-old daughter was later found dead at their home. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Sydney Kamysz

    Sydney Kamysz

  • Map where mother and daughter were found.

    Map where mother and daughter were found. Daily Herald Staff Graphic

and Charles Keeshan
Daily Herald Staff
Updated 8/30/2007 1:09 PM

A Crystal Lake mother, embroiled in a custody dispute over her 7-year-old daughter, suffocated the girl in her bedroom Tuesday afternoon and a short time later stepped in front of a fast-moving commuter train to take her own life, authorities said this afternoon.

McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said preliminary indications are that the deaths of Magdalene Kamysz, 28, and daughter Sydney Kamysz were a murder-suicide perhaps driven by a "heated" legal fight with the girl's father.


"I would not want to rule anything out at this point, but certainly the focus of the investigation is on the mother," Nygren said.

Sydney Kamysz, who lived at 4510 Hanover Drive near Crystal Lake, was discovered lying dead in her bed just before 6 p.m. Tuesday, a little more than four hours after her mother stood before an oncoming Metra train in a wooded stretch of track between Cary and Crystal Lake.

So far, investigators have not located a note or any other indications of the mother's intentions or motivations, Nygren said.

"That's certainly a possibility and something we continue to investigate," he said.

Deputy Coroner Robert Lock discovered Sydney's body when he went to the home she shared with her mother, Magdalene Kamysz, and grandparents Jozef and Barbara Kamysz to notify the family of Magdalene's death. The girl was lying in bed in a bedroom she shared with her mother, Lock said.

Kamsyz's father was home but unaware his granddaughter was dead in her bedroom, he said.

Lock said he could not disclose at this time whether there was an apparent cause of death or obvious signs of injury to the girl until after completion of an autopsy later today.

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Magdalene Kamysz, according to a witness, walked onto the train tracks about 2 p.m. Tuesday in a wooded stretch of track between Cary and Crystal Lake. The 28-year-old was killed by a Metra train.

Several neighbors said Magdalene, who had lived at the home with her parents for the bulk of her adulthood, left each morning around 8:15 a.m. with her daughter, who was often carrying an armload of books. Otherwise, they said they rarely saw the quiet little girl other than the occasional door-to-door visit to sell something for school.

On Tuesday morning, the routine had changed and Magdalene's black car remained in the driveway all morning and neither mother nor daughter were spotted.

Her car was gone when Magdalene's father returned home in the mid-afternoon as he usually did. He was working outside when neighbors noticed police cars showing up - and they knew something clearly was wrong.


Since early this year, Sydney had been at the center of a custody and visitation dispute between her mother and her father, Alan B. Burton of Walworth, Wis.

Burton, 29, filed court papers Feb. 6 asking a court to grant him joint custody of the girl as well as liberal visitation rights. In his petition, Burton states he had been trying to establish a visitation schedule with Kamysz, but the two could not reach any agreements.

A judge had ordered the parents into mediation in June, but after three meetings with a mediator -- once each individually and once together -- the process was terminated unsuccessfully.

Kamysz had successfully completed a parenting class in June as required by the court process.

Wesley Pribla, who represented Kamysz in the ongoing custody case, said the proceedings were not unusually hostile and there were no indications his client would take drastic actions as a result of the case.

"She impressed me as being a loving mother who had nothing but the best interests of her daughter at heart," Pribla said. "She seemed to love her daughter a lot."

The case last appeared in court Aug. 14 and had been set over for future hearings on custody and visitation.

Neither parent has a criminal history in McHenry County.

Sydney was to start school this morning as a second-grader at Husmann Elementary School.

Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 Superintendent Ron Miller remembered her as "a really talented and gifted student" who was fluent in Polish and English and even Spanish after having spent first grade in the school's gifted program.

When informed of her death Tuesday night, Miller said, "It took my breath away."

He called it "a terrible waste of a talented little girl."

Miller today notified his staff of Sydney's death.

However, with school ending by noon today, no formal announcement was to be made today to students.

McHenry County Crisis Line officials said they would be working with the school district to offer counseling.

Neighbors, too, are shocked by the course of events.

Jozef and Barbara Kamysz have lived in the quiet, bucolic neighborhood for almost two decades, said neighbors who knew the couple for their carefully-tended, backyard garden.

"It's very upsetting," said Tricia Blossom, who has lived in the bucolic neighborhood of carefully-tended homes for about two decades. "It's devastating. This is a quiet, nothing-happens neighborhood."

Most preferred not to talk to reporters traipsing up and down their normally quiet streets.

For the most part, no one was home at the brown L-shaped Kamysz home. A pickup truck, recreational trailer and snowmobiles sat alongside the garage. Rows of pink, yellow and purple flowers highlighted by a giant cluster of sunflowers stood guard to the front door.

The sheriff's department is working with the Cary police department and the county coroner's office.

Stay tuned to for details.

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