Cook County officials investigate probation problem: EXCLUSIVE - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Cook County officials investigate probation problem: EXCLUSIVE

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Cook County adult probation officials admit they dropped the ball in the Pendleton case. One of the gunmen charged in her murder had violated his probation on numerous occasions, but was still out on the street. Now, the same mistake happened in another high-profile murder case.

Just two weeks after Pendleton's murder made national headlines, 18-year-old Frances Colon, a senior at Clemente High School, was gunned down as she left a store near her home.

FOX 32 has learned Cook County officials are investigating why the alleged triggerman was still on the street, despite violating his probation not once, but twice.

Nearly a month after her murder, Dorothy Payton says she still can't believe her daughter is gone.

"Everything I do reminds me of her," Payton says. "I keep thinking I'm hearing her knocking on the door."

Frances Colon was looking forward to graduation and starting college, but on February 15th, she was shot to death as she walked out of a store in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Police charged 34-year-old Larry Luellen Jr. with Colon's murder. They say he was trying to shoot someone else, but Dorothy Payton wants to know why Luellen was on the street in the first place.

"If they would have put him away then, maybe this wouldn't have happened," Payton says.

The Cook County Adult Probation Department is investigating whether Luellen's probation officer dropped the ball.

In 2011, Luellen was sentenced to probation for stealing a credit card, but in 2012, he was arrested for misdemeanor retail theft and misdemeanor possession of cannabis.

Neither of those probation violations were ever reported to Luellen's judge. If they had been, Luellen could have been sent back to jail.

"I think our probation officers for the most part do the best they can," Adult Probation Acting Director Jesse Reyes says. "But if we hold others accountable, then we have to be held accountable to do our job."

"Unfortunately, what they've been doing is keep blaming the probation officer," says Jim Dunaway, who heads the union that represents Cook County's 450 probation officers. "They're not addressing the problem."

Dunaway says they've lost about 100 officers in the past two years due to budget cuts and attrition, leading to unmanageable case loads.

"An unsafe condition, because when you have too many cases to supervise, things get missed," Dunaway says. "And more cases keep coming in and it just becomes a powderkeg."

Cook County is also investigating why the probation officer for 18-year-old Michael Ward failed to report three violations of his weapons conviction that could have put him behind bars. Ward is one of two men charged with murdering Hadiya Pendleton, 15, in January.

Dorothy Payton says the probation problem needs to be fixed.

"I'm happy they're investigating it, but I'm never gonna be satisfied because my daughter's gone," Payton says.

Jesse Reyes says he may take action to discipline the officers involved in the two cases, but he also notes that even had the probation violations been reported, there's no guarantee Luellen and Ward would have gone back to jail--or that they would have been held for more than a few days.

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