(CBS) – A downstate Illinois man literally scared a suburban woman to death during a 1994 home invasion and later dressed up as a woman to cash forged checks in her name.
Those are some of the details that emerged Monday as DuPage County authorities announced charges in a 23-year-old cold case.
“I am just glad that 23 years later that my mother can rest in peace,” Keith Venard says.
His mother, 71-year-old Illa Vernard, had a heart attack at her Lisle apartment on July 31, 1994. Prosecutors say Thomas John Spear pushed her backwards during a break-in.
Spear – currently 43 and from Peoria — allegedly stole check books from Venard’s apartment, forged her signature and dressed as a woman to cash four of her checks. Latent fingerprints taken from the checks came back as a match to Spear, prosecutors says.
A witness also came forward in 1997 to tell authorities she saw Spear with the checks.
Spear family friend Marie Rehor can’t believe it.
“I have known him for 20 years. There is no way he climbed a second-story window and did this. He’s not that kind of person,” she says.
Spear, charged with first-degree murder, is being held on $3 million bond at the DuPage County jail.