Rockford woman killed on way to church, teens may be responsible - – Rockford’s News Leader

UPDATED: Rockford woman killed on way to church, teens may be responsible


The teens involved are 15, 16, and 17 years old. All three are still in the hospital, but are expected to be released Tuesday.

What should have been a nice afternoon at church turns deadly for a Rockford woman. She died in a car accident after being hit by three young men allegedly running from police.

A Winnebago County Sheriff's Department deputy was after three teenagers suspected of breaking into vehicles at a church.  The car those teens were in crashed into Karen Shafer's vehicle. She died at the hospital.

"This was a very tragic and very unnecessary death," says Penny Wiegert, Catholic Diocese of Rockford, communications director.

The Diocese of Rockford along with the Holy Family Church community suffered a big loss in Sunday's accident. Long-time parishioner Karen Shafer was killed on her way to afternoon mass.  Her life ended in this crash at the intersection of Alpine and Brendenwood Roads. The teenagers accused in her death are also suspects in a burglary.

"A call was dispatched for Holy Family Church, the call was that individuals were in the parking lot attempting to break into vehicles. As soon as the call went out there was a Winnebago County Deputy very close, on scene," say Lt. March Welsh, Rockford Police Department.

Police say the three took off when a sheriff's deputy spotted them.

"We like to think that everyone finds our spaces as sacred as we do. And unfortunately in incidents like this we find that it is not the case. And I think that's probably what bothers us the most is that there are those that disrespect another's right to worship and to be safe and to have some element of security during that time," says Wiegert.

Police say the teens slammed into Shafer's car. She was taken to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center where she died. It is the same hospital where Shafer spent the last 38 years of her life working as a nurse.

"The diocese shares a profound sense of sorrow that Holy Family Parish in Rockford and OSF are experiencing right now and we just ask that everybody join us in praying for that family."

OSF also released a statement saying their thoughts and prayers are with Shafer's family. Besides being a nurse at OSF she is also the sister of Tom Gendron CEO of Woodward.

There have been some other burglaries to cars at Sunday services in the last few weeks according to Rockford Police. They are looking into those cases to see if they are related. The teens involved in the crash were taken to the hospital for their injuries. Charges against them are pending.



A Rockford woman is dead after suspects fleeing police crashed into her car Sunday afternoon in the area of North Alpine and Brendenwood.

Rockford Police responded to Holy Family Church just after 12:15 p.m. on February 24 for subjects breaking into cars in the church parking lot. During that call, a deputy with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department saw a suspect vehicle in the lot.

The suspects in that car then fled the area southbound on North Alpine, were it hit the car 58-year-old Karen Shafer was driving at the intersection of Alpine and Brendenwood.

Shafer was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. The three occupants of the suspect vehicle were also taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Both the burglary and the accident are still under investigation.


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