Debra Evans, eagerly awaiting the imminent birth of her fourth baby, was preparing her three youngsters for bed on a chilly November night when assailants invaded her apartment.
The attackers killed her 10-year-old daughter, shot Evans in the head and slashed her throat, then cut her open and ripped the fetus from her womb. They abducted the full-term baby along with Evans’ 7-year-old boy, leaving her 1-year-old son alive amidst the carnage in the apartment.
The older boy lived long enough in captivity to tell others of the terror he’d witnessed. Then he was killed and dumped in an alley. The boy ripped from the womb survived and is now 2.
“You could not give a horror writer a better script,” said DuPage County States Attorney Joe Birkett.
This week, the first of three defendants in the Nov. 16-17, 1995, killings is going on trial.
Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday for Jacqueline Annette Williams, who prosecutors allege instigated the crime because she wanted another child.
Williams is charged with first-degree murder for the killings of Evans, 10-year-old Samantha and 7-year-old Joshua, and with aggravated kidnapping for the abduction of Joshua and the newborn baby, Elijah.
Codefendants Fedell Caffey, 25, and Laverne Ward, 26, will be tried separately later. The defendants are expected to implicate each other.
Ward is both a cousin of Williams and the father of Evans’ two youngest sons, including the child ripped from his mother’s womb.
At first glance, Williams had much in common with Evans. Both were 28-year-old unemployed, single mothers struggling to raise three children in Chicago’s suburbs.
There the similarities end.
Evans was a former honor student from a religious Chicago-area family who got mixed up with a tough crowd after a teen pregnancy.
Williams, an Alabama native, is described by her lawyers as borderline retarded, a drug abuser with a severely dependent personality.
Some of the most pivotal testimony at her trial will come from the grave. Judge Peter Dockery is allowing prosecutors to use statements Joshua whimpered to friends of the defendants who cared for him briefly before he, too, was killed.
Joshua identified the trio and told of seeing his family killed, according to pretrial testimony.
Prosecutors say they’ll seek the death penalty for all three defendants if they’re convicted.