An Illinois state social worker lost her life after she attempted to rescue a toddler from the home of a suspected abuser.
Pam Knight, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigator, was brutally attacked, and left in a coma and permanently disabled, WBBM-TV reported.
Six months later, Pam died. She was 59.
Now, her husband is on a mission to change the system that put his wife in the vulnerable situation that led to her death.
“It’s my goal now to help her co-workers,” Don Knight told WBBM. “I do not ever want a co-worker of hers to end up this way.”
On Sept. 29, Pam went alone to a home in Sterling where she was going to take a 2-year-old into protective custody.
"She had been handed instructions to go get that baby because it was going to be abused," Don said, adding that her caseload was heavy.
Pam was investigating the child's father, Andrew Sucher, after he'd been charged with felony aggravated battery of a child in the beating of a 6-year-old boy and domestic violence for allegedly throwing his girlfriend against a wall, according to an earlier report by the Chicago Tribune.
When she arrived, Sucher ran up to Pam, reportedly attacked her and left her lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
Sucher's mother called 911 and told the dispatcher, “There is a lady on the ground. You need to get an ambulance here now!”
"Is she hurt anywhere?" the dispatcher asked.
"Her face," the woman responded.
Sucher had left the scene.
Pam suffered severe head trauma from the attack. She lived her last months disabled and in pain.
“He had used a shoe to kick her in the head three times,” Don said.
Where were the police when the social worker went to the suspect's home?
Don said his wife didn't have police backup that day because she was traveling across county lines to the home.
In Whiteside County, she could have police backup immediately, but the man's house was in Carroll County, and the authorities couldn't cross jurisdictions.
Do they use criminal background checks?
The agency uses a slow criminal background check system, according to Anne Irving, public policy director of AFSCME Local 31, the union that represents DCFS employees. Irving said DCFS should be using immediate background checks before sending workers into potentially dangerous homes.
What does DCFS say?
The agency said its taking action to ensure DCFS workers' safety.
"When Don Knight met with the DCFS director, he emphasized that he wants his family tragedy to be a force for change, and we share that desire," a DCFS spokesman said in a statement to WBBM. "The brutal beating Pam Knight suffered had an effect on all of us. We are very grateful for Mr. Knight’s efforts on behalf of all the first responders at DCFS, including his support for the Senate bill increasing penalties on those who attack our workers."
The agency supplied field workers with direct phone numbers for police backup and hired more investigators. It said it's working on getting an immediate background check system. Other initiatives are being developed to keep workers safe.
Sucher's charges have been upgraded from aggravated battery to murder.