Illinois State Representative Tom Weber, based in Fox Lake, has called for an investigation into DCFS policies, laws and leadership following the death of 6-year-old Damari Perry.
“The stories of incompetence from DCFS are sadly ever present; the improper removal of well-cared for children like baby girl Bougher, the deaths of AJ Freund and Damari Perry, and the hospitalization of 356 children in the state’s care for months longer than necessary in 2021,” Weber said in a statement on Tuesday.
He also mentioned the murders of DCFS employees Pam Knight and Deidre Silas.
“Over the last several years, DCFS has been marred by tragedies and lapses. In the last decade, 1,122 children who were under the protection of DCFS in some capacity have died,” Weber said.
“You cannot look at the information and conclude that we need anything other than a top to bottom assessment of a failed system,” he said.
Weber called for comprehensive hearings from the Adoption and Child Welfare Committee to investigate the DCFS policies, practices, and laws that have “created a Department that habitually neglects those children in Illinois who are most vulnerable.”
“We also need to ask why legislative action to protect the state’s children and DCFS field employees, such as the AJ Freund Act and HB1482 (101st General Assembly) has been stonewalled,” Weber said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lake and McHenry County Scanner reported that Damari Perry, the North Chicago boy found murdered allegedly by his mother, was placed into foster care with his siblings when he was born, according to DCFS, who said they investigated a report of abuse months before his death.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had taken four children into custody from Jannie M. Perry in September 2014, according to Bill McCaffrey, the Director of Communications for DCFS.
DCFS placed the four children into foster care after receiving court approval following a domestic violence incident between the mother and father of Damari.
Damari was born on December 30, 2015, while Jannie Perry’s other children were still in foster care, McCaffrey said.
Because of that, DCFS took custody of Damari when he was born. In 2017, the court returned Jannie Perry’s six children to her.
McCaffrey said that DCFS investigated an allegation of abuse and neglect involving Damari in May 2021 but deemed it unfounded.
Damari’s mother, Jannie M. Perry, 38, of North Chicago, was charged last week with first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice.
Prosecutors also charged Damari’s 20-year-old brother, Jeremiah R. Perry, with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm to a child under 12, concealing a homicidal death and obstructing justice.
A third defendant, who authorities said is a juvenile family member, was also charged in the case. All three were arrested Friday evening.
Jannie Perry was scheduled to appear in bond court Sunday but did not appear.
Police said she was taken to the hospital on Saturday after complaining that she was ill.
The woman is under police custody at a local hospital and will be taken to bond court when she is medically discharged from the hospital, police said.
During Jeremiah Perry’s bond hearing Sunday, prosecutors detailed the graphic allegations against him and Jannie Perry.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle Doyle said the family of Damari reported that the boy “did something that the mother felt needed to be punished for” on December 30.
That same day, Damari was put into a tub or shower with the cold water on for an “extended period of time,” Doyle said.
Damari vomited and became unresponsive. It was determined the boy was deceased but no one in the family called 911, Doyle said.
The incident occurred at the family’s apartment in the 1700 block of Sheridan Road in North Chicago.
Doyle said that Jannie Perry and Jeremiah Perry discussed how to dispose of the body and ended up taking it to Indiana.
On Wednesday, approximately six days after Damari’s death, the family reported the boy missing.
Damari’s 16-year-old sister told investigators that she and Damari were driven to a party in the Skokie area by a man and a woman.
Damari’s sister claimed that she had several drinks at the party and fell asleep. When she awoke approximately two hours later, she claimed Damari and the man were no longer in the apartment.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said investigators determined the family’s story about Damari going missing in Skokie was “completely false.”
Information from witnesses led to the discovery of Damari’s body near an abandoned house in the 700 block of Van Buren Street in Gary, Indiana, according to police and the state’s attorney’s office.
“Our hearts ache over the murder of 6-year-old Damari Perry. We would not have reached the awful truth of this case without the work of the FBI, the North Chicago Police Department, and the investigators and staff at the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center,” Rinehart said.
Rinehart added that the “rigorous and detailed investigation” by police and the FBI will help prosecutors “bring Damari’s killers to justice in a courtroom.”
“I’m lost, man. I feel like I lost a part of myself when I got that call,” Dalvin Driver, the father of Damari, told ABC7 Chicago.
“He was the best thing you can ever have for the time that I had to spend with him. It was some of the best time that I had in my life. He was just the life of me, man. It’s like you can walk in the room and everybody loved him!” Driver said.
Jeremiah Perry remains held in the Lake County Jail on a $3 million bond. An arrest warrant carrying a $5 million bond has been issued for Jannie Perry, court records show.
Prosecutors indicated that more charges could be filed as the investigation continues and the autopsy is completed.