Following ongoing domestic violence issues between a former Plano couple that recently ended in murder in Ottawa and suicide in Plano, Kendall County State's Attorney officials are hoping to see a decrease in domestic violence cases this year.
According to unofficial numbers from Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis's office, there were 83 misdemeanor domestic battery cases, 172 order of protection case files and 21 order of protection violations, which include stalking or civil no-contact orders as of July 1.
Weis said there were 196 domestic battery cases, 371 order of protection case files and 56 order of protection violations in 2018. He said there were 215 domestic battery cases, 369 order of protection case files and 45 order of protection violations in 2017.
Weis said he's hoping to see those numbers decrease and that's what the preliminary data is suggesting so far. He said he thinks having Mutual Ground, an Aurora-based domestic violence and abuse crisis center, leasing space in the courthouse since about early 2016, has helped immensely.
"It’s been a great great asset to the community and the criminal justice system," Weis said.
Michelle Meyer, executive director for Mutual Ground, said the agency assisted with 83 orders of protection in their first fiscal year between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015. She said the total number grew to 118 during the next fiscal year and the number more than doubled from that first year by fiscal 2017, with 196 assists.
Before the agency had the space, Meyer said, what would happen is someone would come to the clerk’s office to file an order of protection and clerk staff would call Mutual Ground. She said it would then take agency representatives a half hour to get to the courthouse.
“It was just a very cumbersome process,” Meyer said.
Meyer said it helps immensely for the agency to be located in the courthouse because it's a huge step for victims to make it to court to begin with. She said now there can be someone from the agency there immediately to guide victims through the whole court process, and there's less of a likelihood for victims to leave the courthouse if they don't have the wait time to second-guess their decision.
"It’s scary, honestly, for a lot of people," Meyer said.
Weis said there is no additional data for the same types of unofficial court case numbers in 2016 and 2015 immediately available. Official numbers of orders of protection, violations of orders of protection and domestic battery cases in recent years were not immediately available from the Kendall County Circuit Clerk's Office.
The comments come after Nicol E. Scolaro, 49, and Paul E. Ladue, 51, were found dead last month at 320 Deleon St., Ottawa, as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, according to Ottawa police. Christopher B. Stankovich, 48, was named as a suspect in the case and was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound a day after Scolaro and Ladue were found dead.
Stankovich was charged with domestic battery after striking Scolaro in the face May 19 at Stankovich’s house, 317 W. Dearborn St. in Plano, according to Kendall County court records. The incident, which left Scolaro with a broken nose, blood in her eye and loose teeth, was one of several others between her and Stankovich over a four-year time period, including instances of kicks to the head, beating Scolaro until she passed out or lost feeling on portions of her face, damage to Scolaro’s vehicle and “degrading and insulting” name-calling.
According to court documents, Scolaro requested in open court for her first order of protection to be lifted in 2015 after requesting the order about a month before. The second order of protection, which was filed in May, was violated when Stankovich continually made calls to Scolaro from the Kendall County Jail a day after she filed for protection.
Stankovich was released after posting $500 after bond was set at $5,000, and was due back in court July 1 for the order of protection violation charges. His GPS monitoring also was removed because his lawyer argued there no longer was a protected address for the victim and the Stalker Alert unit from the victim was returned to court services.
Meyer said it devastates everyone at the agency when abuse situations end in the way that it did between Scolaro and Stankovich.
"It just reminds us of how important the work that we do is and how much work there is still left to do," Meyer said.
Meyer said it's important for victims, law enforcement and crisis agencies to continue to recognize lethal forms of abuse and take them seriously. She said every person and relationship is different and, depending on what agency representatives hear when victims call their 24-7 crisis line, they will work with victims on an individual basis to find ways to make them safer.
Weis said he makes a point to tell people filing for orders of protection that it's a court enforced piece of paper and not a piece of armor. With that said, filing orders of protection can be a very effective tool for victims in keeping away people who are constantly calling or otherwise harassing the victim, he said.
“To others, in this case, it wasn’t a concern," Weis said. "He [Stankovich] was willing to ultimately take someone’s life.”
Weis said it's rare for these types of cases to end in fatalities and they have to be taken seriously and result in remedies for the victim's safety.
Plano police also filled out a questionnaire with Scolaro after the May 19 incident, according to records obtained by Shaw Media through a Freedom of Information Act request. Scolaro refused to sign the questionnaire and it was to be faxed over to Mutual Ground, the documents said.
Meyer said she couldn't confirm or deny whether the agency worked with Scolaro, citing confidentiality concerns, even after death. Generally speaking, she said, Plano police officials consistently have sent those forms to the agency whenever those questionnaires are taken.
“They’re really good about getting us the information we need,” Meyer said.
Weis said his office was concerned after Stankovich previously was released from jail on his signature and smaller bond amounts. He said he understands that the court is mandated to not hold people in custody if they don’t have to, but the order of protection violations and GPS removal also concerned him and his staff.
“We want to make sure the victim and the victim’s family … [are] protected as best as they can be,” Weis said.
If the offender takes responsibility for what they did and do what they need to do to get better and stop hurting people, Weis said, that's much more successful than someone who just goes through the motions in court and doesn’t go through with mandated treatment.
"We’re going to be right back in same situation, perhaps in a worse situation," Weis said.
If you are concerned you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship, callers can reach out to Mutual Ground's 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 630-897-0080 or the 24-hour sexual assault hotline at 630-897-8383.