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Local

Autopsy: DCFS worker's death a homicide

Complications from head injuries caused Knight's death, medical examiner rules

Pamela Sue Knight
Pamela Sue Knight

CHICAGO – The DCFS worker gravely injured in a beating in September died Thursday of "complications of blunt force head injuries due to assault," which makes her death a homicide, the Cook County medical examiner's office said this afternoon.

Pamela Knight, 59, was pronounced dead around 8:15 a.m. at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she was admitted Feb. 4 for emergency surgery, her family said in a post on CaringBridge.org. The type of surgery was not specified.

At the time of her death, "she could move her left finger half an inch and her neck to the right a few inches. She couldn't talk, she couldn't walk, she couldn't eat or swallow," her daughter, Jennifer Hollenbeck, said in Facebook postings this afternoon.

In the 4 and a half months since the attack, Knight underwent five "major surgical procedures." She spent the first 2 months in a coma, and in the last few weeks was working therapists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, learning to communicate using eye movements and undergoing physical therapy to help her regain movement in her arms and legs.

In anticipation of a lifelong struggle with the disabilities the attack had caused, her husband, Don Knight, had spent in excess of $70,000 modifying their Dixon home.

Knight, a veteran Department of Children and Family Services worker, was taking a 2-year-old into protective custody when investigators say she was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head by Andrew Sucher, 25, of Rock Falls.

Sucher was indicted Dec. 7 on charges of attempted first-degree murder, which carries at least 6 to 30 years in prison, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, and aggravated battery of a state employee, each of which carries 2 to 5 years in prison. He is being held at Stephenson County Jail on $275,000 bond.

Carroll County State's Attorney Scott Brinkmeier could not be reached Thursday or today for comment on whether or when those charges would be increased.

The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Sucher is accused fracturing Knights' skull, causing permanent brain damage that also led to her extensive physical disabilities.

Knight had gone to Sucher's home first, with a police escort, to take the child into custody, and when no one was there, she went to his parents' home in Milledgeville, which is in another police jurisdiction. She did not ask for assistance from village police.

She was attacked shortly after she got out of her car around 5:45 p.m. Sucher's mother called 911 and another relative threw himself over Knight to protect her.

Preston Schilling Funeral Home in Dixon is handling arrangements, which will be completed early next week.

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