Investigators say one Rockford girl's murder, more than two decades ago, is a story of abuse and abandonment. These days, her name serves as a beacon of hope for children living as victims.
The Carrie Lynn Children's Center is named after Carrie Lynn Gaines, who was killed just before her second birthday. Investigators found her body, nearly 20 years ago, on October 25th 1995. Dominic Iasparro, who's now a Winnebago County detective, was there as Deputy Chief for the Rockford Police Department.
"It was just overwhelming to see that little baby, wrapped in a blanket and then discarded, buried. It's unbelievable that someone could possibly do that." -Iasparro says.
Detectives found Carrie Lynn's body in a backyard, underground, five years after she was killed. Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia was at the scene alongside Iasparro. Her forensic team discovered evidence of abuse.
"The boyfriend of the mother probably took Carrie and kicked her in the chest." -Fiduccia explains.
Law enforcement involved in the case carried the little girl's name with them, helping create the Carrie Lynn Children's Center. Over the past fiscal year, the agency, serving Winnebago and Boone counties saw 600 referrals for child sex abuse and severe physical abuse cases.
"We are a very active children's advocacy center in the state of Illinois, one of the busiest in fact outside of Chicago and its collar counties." -says center Executive Director Kathy Pomahac.
Investigators say for years, Carrie Lynn's mother knew what happened and kept quiet. Other relatives didn't know and never asked questions.
"We have a moral responsibility to act on behalf of our children. If we feel that something is not right, or not going right and a child is being abused, then we have an obligation to make contact with the people who can help." -Pomahac explains.
Carrie Lynn Center workers say they provide an outlet to get that conversation started. They can connect young victims to solutions like legal help; all free of charge.
"Every day we're here, trying to make sure that the children who are referred here are safe and that's a great legacy for Carrie Lynn because she didn't get that." -Pomahac adds.
Pomahac says of the agency's 600 referrals last year, 95 cases are currently open in the court system. If you or someone you know suspects child abuse, call the Illinois DCFS hotline at 1(800)252-2873.
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