This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Its site link has expired so we decided to make a permanent link to this article on this site, so that none of us may forget the tragic end of this child.



"In a slow, steady voice, Assistant States Atty. Beth Pfeiffer stood before the judge and began to read the accusations against the Slacks, described by authorities and neighbors as Jehovah's Witnesses who were strict with their six children that they were not even allowed to play with other kids from the neighborhood.

According to Pfeiffer, the couple had been planning to go out for dinner Saturday night but had been unable to locate a jacket that had Constance Slacks wallet and credit cards in the pocket. So Larry Slack ordered the children, who range from 8-17 to search for it.

When the children did not seem to be looking hard enough for the jacket. Pfeiffer said, Larry Slack grabbed and electric cable that was about three quarters of an inch thick and lashed the couples 8 year old son Lester four to five times in the legs and buttocks.

Larry Slack, a Chicago Transit Authority machinist for the past 22 years, soon grew even angrier because dirty laundry was scattered about the house, impeding the search, the prosecutor said. Laree had been in charge of washing and putting away laundry in the home, Pfeiffer said.

"Larry Slack than ordered Laree to 'assume the position', the prosecutor said, which meat that the 12 year old was to stand read to be whipped.

Larry Slack lashed Laree four to five times with the same cord as he had used on her brother, according to the prosecutor, but he grew angrier still when the girl attempted to squirm away. The father ordered his two teenage sons to tie Laree face down to a metal futon frame and then disserted 39 lashed to the girls back, Pfeiffer said. Constance Slack then took the cord and shipped the girl 20 more times, the prosecutor alleged.

The first-floor Cook County courtroom, usually abuzz with lawyers talking about their coming cases or milling about distributing paperwork, grew silent as the prosecutor spoke. The details she told the judge next seemed to shock everyone even more.

Girl began to scream

According to Pfeiffer, when Laree began to scream, Larry Slcak ordered his sons to fetch a towel to stuff in her mouth. He than tied a scarf over the towel and used a stick to with the scarf like a tourniquet into place.

He then cut off his daughters shirt, ordered the other children to pull off her pants and whipped her 39 more times, the prosecutor said. Constance followed with 20- more lashes, Pfiffer said.

As Laree writhed from what would total more than 160 blows. the girls back began to bleed. So, according to Pfeiffer, Larry Slack untied her, turner her over and beat her 39 more times on her stomach and chest. 

"It was an awful one", Pfeiffer said after court, shaking her head. "And to think they involved the other children, that's what gets me".

The case of Laree Slack who was pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital just hours after her beating has rattled even seasoned child abuse experts.

"Do you know how hard it is to kill a 12 year old?", said Demetra Soter, a physician who is coordinator of pediatric trauma at Cook County Hospital.

According to Soter, children as old as Laree require "massive amounts of force to die like this". Soter said she had only heard of two comparable cases in recent years, one a DuPage County teenager whose father is accused of fatally beating him for stealing a car.

John Goad, the associate deputy directory of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services concurred. He said the vast majority of homicides involving children are in cases where the child is under the age of three. Those children, Goad said, often are on the receiving end of their their caregivers rage because they have soiled their pants or cried uncontrollably.

In addition, Goad said, Laree's death comes at a time when child abuse cases are hitting new lows in Cook County. He cited a 22.7 percent decrease in reported abuse cases in Cook County the last five years.

Goad said part of the reason for the drop is that social service agencies are getting better at counseling families who are reported as having abused or neglected their children.

DCFS officials said Tuesday that the Slack family who live in the 7900 block of South Brandon Avenue, has had at least one contact with the department in the past.

In 1995, DCFS received a report that the youngest of the families children had been found walking on the street alone, according to DCFS director Jess Mc Donald, Investors later learned that a plumber has been doing work at the families house and left a fence open, allowing the child to walk out.

Although the circumstances of that case do not indicate that DCFS failed to protected the Slack children, McDonald said the department is grief-stricken over Laree's death.

"Any time child dies and you have had any involvement in the case at any time, please literally get sick", McDonald said. "It really does not eat at you. I think when there's a chance that the system was involved, obviously we want to find out, did we miss anything at any point in time?"

Death penalty may be asked.