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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010 01:08 pm

Mother of beaten girl questions sheriff’s investigation

The recent beating of a Springfield woman has the victim’s mother questioning how the Sangamon County Sheriff’s office handles criminal investigations.

Violet Procarione of Springfield says her daughter, Connie Procarione, 18, had been drinking, though she was underage, at a friend’s house on July 11 when she fell asleep on the couch and awoke to a series of punches from between one and three attackers. The beating resulted in a black eye, a knocked out tooth and a broken jaw that required a metal plate to be surgically implanted in her face. The incident allegedly resulted from a quarrelsome breakup.

“She’s just now able to eat solid foods again, more than a month after the attack,” Violet Procarione says of her daughter. “She’s been eating through a straw this whole time, and she still has to talk through her teeth.”

The Procariones reported the incident to the Sangamon County Sheriff’s office, but Violet Procarione says she was frustrated by a lack of progress in her daughter’s case.

“We knew who the attackers were,” she says. “I gave them names, descriptions, workplaces, what kind of cars they drive, all that stuff. They didn’t do anything with it, so I called Neil Williamson, and he basically said, ‘We don’t really do anything with assaults.’ He told me I needed to investigate it myself.”

A deputy who took Connie Procarione’s statement says in a case report that the case would be forwarded to the sheriff’s detective bureau and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office, though Violet Procarione says the sheriff’s office didn’t pursue the case until a deputy saw Connie Procarione wearing a campaign T-shirt for Jeff Regan, Williamson’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming election.

On Aug. 13, the sheriff’s office arrested Stephanie Otken, 30, of Springfield, in connection with the case. Otken faces one charge of aggravated battery in the case, a class 3 felony that carries a prison sentence of between 2 and 10 years. A second alleged attacker has been questioned, but was not arrested, Williamson says.

Williamson says he did not tell Procarione that she would have to investigate the incident herself.

 “I vaguely remember the conversation, but I think I told her (Violet Procarione) to take pictures of her daughter’s injuries, not to investigate it herself,” Williamson says. “The look of the face can change a lot after injuries like that, so I told her she needed to document it. We would never tell someone to investigate an incident themselves.”

Williamson says his deputies and detectives handled the case exceptionally well.

“In something like this, it’s usually a he-said-she-said type of thing, but the detective on the case was able to get her (the alleged attacker) to confess through his investigative techniques,” Williamson says. “In a perfect world, it (an arrest) would happen immediately or within a few days, but these things take time. People want immediate action, but we’ve only got nine detectives working on hundreds of cases. To get a confession and a warrant in a case like this is actually miraculous.”

Williamson has served four consecutive terms as Sangamon County Sheriff since he was elected to the post in 1994. He now faces Democrat Jeff Regan in the only contested countywide race this election. 

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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