Bond Set at $5M for Man Accused of Killing Welfare Worker Performing Child Home Check

Bond was set at $5 million for a man arrested and charged with the murder of an Illinois welfare worker who was stabbed to death while conducting a home visit Tuesday.

Benjamin Reed, 32, was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and unlawful restraint for allegedly stabbing and killing 36-year-old Diedre Silas, a state Department of Children and Family Services investigator.

Silas was allegedly conducting a welfare check on at least one of the children living in the home when she was attacked by Reed, Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said Wednesday.

Campbell said authorities arrived at the home Thursday afternoon and forced their way into the home after they saw blood near the door, where they found Silas dead inside.

Police obtained a search warrant, which led to them finding Reed at a nearby hospital hours later, where he received treatment for a cut on his hand before being taken to Sangamon County Jail.

Six children of undisclosed ages were also found in the house, although Campbell said he wasn't sure if any saw the incident that led to Silas' death. He also said they were in protective custody at the time of the press conference Wednesday.

Authorities believe at least one of the children is related to Reed and multiple adults were likely living in the home, Campbell said.

Illinois, Child Welfare Check, Murder, Benjamin Reed
This photo provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office in Springfield, Ill., shows Benjamin H. Reed. Reed is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in the stabbing death Tuesday of DCFS child-welfare worker Diedre Silas, 36. Sangamon County Sheriff's Office via AP

Thayer, the town where the home was located, is about 23 miles south of Springfield.

Sangamon County State's Attorney Dan Wright said conviction could put Reed in prison for life if a court finds the conduct in Silas' death "exceptionally brutal, heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty."

But at a late Wednesday news conference, Wright parried questions about why Silas was visiting the home, why she went alone and whether there was a suspected threat there, saying that responses "are relevant enough to this investigation that it's not appropriate to answer those questions."

That frustrated members of Silas' family, including her 61-year-old father Roy Graham, who brought Diedre from Jamaica when she was 10. He saw the married mother of two develop her love for helping children as early as high school, mentoring grade school children and volunteering for Sparc, a nonprofit devoted to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"Why do you really attack my daughter? I can't understand why you'd do that," Graham said after then news conference. "I know she'd be begging for her life. Why? She didn't come to talk to you.... That's brutal, mischievous, hardcore stuff."

DCFS Director Marc Smith said the last investigator to be killed on duty occurred about four years ago. Smith said the agency trains its staff in how to approach various situations, including going into a volatile environment. Staff members decide whether to go alone, in pairs, or summon police protection, he said.

"In this tragic circumstance, the family we were there to help had a negative response to our presence," Smith said. "We're not avoiding any responsibility. We take responsibility for all of our staff, as well as the children and families that we serve. We will continue to work, we will continue to improve our policies and procedures as we can."

Silas had just joined the department in August after working in the behavioral health field for seven years at the Department of Juvenile Justice, according to a statement by Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents DCFS employees.

"This tragedy is a stark reminder that frontline DCFS employees like Deidre do demanding, dangerous and essential jobs every day, often despite inadequate resources and tremendous stress," AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.