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‘My mother can rest in peace’: Cops arrest suspect in 1994 murder of Illinois senior citizen

He is alleged to have dressed up as his victim in order to cash stolen checks

Illinois police arrested a man and charged him with the 1994 murder of a senior citizen, a cold case that has taken decades to solve, as reported by ABC 7.

Thomas Spear, 43, is alleged to have broken into the home of Illa Venard, 71, to steal jewelry and other precious belongings. Police accused Spear of strangling the beloved senior to death and running off with her checkbook, among other items.

It’s the checkbook that eventually led police to his doorstep, however. In 1997, Venard’s neighbor told investigators that Spear was in possession of the victim’s checkbook and cashed fake checks around town, with police confirming that his fingerprints were found on the remaining checks. According to authorities, the 43-year-old even dressed up as the woman in order to cash some of the checks, as reported by WGN.

DuPage County officials have yet to reveal why it took over 20 years to bring charges against Spear, but his apprehension has come as a relief to her surviving family members.

Keith Venard, the victim’s son, found her body, which had been laying dead in the apartment for several days.

“These last 23 years have been, um, wondering if this day was ever going to happen,” he said. “And I’m just glad that, 23 years later, my mother can rest in peace. She deserves it.”

Lynn Kadolph, the victim’s daughter, also expressed relief that her mother’s alleged killer had finally been caught.

“I’m just glad they finally figured something out in mom’s case,” she said.

Spear was out on bond after being charged with multiple burglaries, when he allegedly committed the horrific crime. The 43-year-old told said in court on Monday that the senior citizen actually died from a heart attack, contrasting police reports. According to Chicago Tribune, an autopsy conducted at the time of the woman’s death was inconclusive.

A friend of the suspect, Marie Rehor, told investigators that she does not think Spear could have climbed to Venard’s second floor apartment. Rehor also said that the 43-year-old has a mental illness which makes him easily convinced of things, alleging that police could make him confess to a crime he did not commit.

“If he’s guilty, I want him to be found guilty,” she said. “But I don’t think he’s guilty.”

Spear has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $3 million bond.

[Featured Image: DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office]