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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

Press Release

Contact Information: Media coordinator: 630-407-8160

Monday, October 23, 2017

First Degree Murder Charges Filed in 1994 Cold Case

Bond set at $3 Million

WHEATON - DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin and Lisle Chief of Police Dave Anderson announced today that First-Degree Murder charges have been filed against a Peoria man for the 1994 murder of seventy-one-year-old Illa Venard of Lisle. Thomas Spear, 43, (d.o.b. 8/15/1974) of 1216 Melbourne Avenue, appeared in Bond Court this afternoon where Judge George Bakalis set bond at $3 million with 10% to apply. In addition to the First-Degree Murder charge, Spear is also charged with four counts of Forgery (Class 3 Felony) and four counts of Issuing or Delivering a Forged Document (Class 3 Felony.)
  On August 4, 1994, Lisle police officers responded to a call to an apartment on Walnut Creek Lane for a report of a deceased person. Upon their arrival, officers discovered the deceased body of Venard. An investigation into the death was begun but eventually went cold. The Lisle Police Department, with assistance from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, re-investigated the case earlier this year resulting in today’s charges. It is alleged that on July 31, 1994, Spear entered Venard’s apartment through a sliding glass door. It is alleged that once inside the apartment, Spear was confronted by Venard at which time he grabbed the victim by the neck and forcibly pushed her down. It is further alleged that Spear then burglarized the apartment and took property of Venard’s including her checkbook along with her personal identification. It is further alleged that on several occasions, Spear disguised himself as an elderly woman, forged Venard’s signature and cashed four checks from her account. He was taken into custody in Peoria on September 28, 2017 and charged with the Forgery offenses.
  “More than two decades have passed since Illa Venard was found deceased in her home,” Berlin said. Her loved ones have waited a long time to find out what happened that horrible day. It is my sincerest hope that with today’s charges those who loved Illa Venard may begin to feel some measure of closure knowing that the man allegedly responsible for her death has been charged. I would like to express my thanks to the Lisle Police Department for their work on this case. They never gave up on justice for Illa and while much time has passed since her tragic death, it is because of their efforts that Mr. Spear is now faced with the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars. I would like to thank Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Johnston for her tireless efforts on this case the past few days in preparing a strong case against Mr. Spear.”
  “The teamwork displayed in the apprehension and ultimate charging of Mr. Spear for the murder of Illa Vernard was outstanding,” Anderson said. “Illa’s family has endured years of uncertainty yet never lost hope that this day would come. They are a strong family and my heart goes out to them. I would like to thank the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office for their assistance and guidance that brought us here today. I would also like to thank the Felony Investigative Assistance Team for their work in helping us throughout this very sad case.”
  Spear’s next court appearance is scheduled for November 6, 2017 for arraignment in front of Judge Bakalis. If found guilty Spear faces a potential sentence of natural life without the possibility of parole.
  Members of the public are reminded that these complaints contain only charges and are not proof of the defendant’s guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.