Man charged in 1994 Lisle break-in, murder

LISLE, Ill. (WLS) -- A murder mystery dating back to 1994 may have been solved in west suburban Lisle.

Three years after the 1994 break-in at Illa Venard's apartment, a neighbor of the victim told police they saw Thomas Spear with the victim's checks. Police said his fingerprints were found on some forged checks.

Why it took more than 20 years for DuPage County to bring charges against Spear is unclear, but Venard's family is grateful her case has been reopened after they've lived with sadness and uncertainty for all those intervening years.

"These last 23 years have been, um, wondering if this day was ever going to happen," said Keith Venard, victim's son.

"I'm just glad they finally figured something out in mom's case," said Lynn Kadolph, victim's daughter.

In 1994, Keith Vendard found his 71-year-old mother dead in her Lisle apartment, which had been ransacked.

"Presents were ripped open, her closet door was open," Kadolph described.

"There was jewelry that was missing," Venard said.

Illa had apparently been dead for several days when she was discovered.

Monday DuPage County prosecutors charged Thomas John Spear with Illa's murder. A neighbor allegedly told police in 1997 that Spear had the victim's checks. In court prosecutors said Spear's fingerprints were found on forged checks. Spear allegedly told investigators that the woman had a heart attack when he broke into her apartment, but prosecutors said he broke into her apartment, apparently intent on stealing jewelry, and allegedly strangled her and slammed her to the ground.

A family friend of Spear's said he has mental health issues and can be easily coerced.

"He was completely incapable, if you tell him that something is a certain way so many times he's going to believe that's the way it is," said Marie Rehor.

For Venard's children, they were grateful to get more information and hope for a just resolution.

"This is for you," Venard said, pointing to the sky. "And I'm just glad that, 23 years later, my mother can rest in peace. She deserves it."

In court, prosecutors revealed after this break-in Spear was charged with other crimes, including other residential break-ins. He is being held on $3 million bond. As for the amount of time that it took for them to bring these charges, neither Lisle police nor the DuPage County State's Attorney would comment.
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