The murder of 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa horrified people throughout the country, but for one suburban family, the young mother’s death brought back to mind another horrific slaying from two decades ago.
In November of 1995, Debra Evans was brutally murdered in her Addison home. Her 10-year-old daughter Samantha and her 7-year-old son Joshua were also killed, and Evans, who was nine months pregnant at the time of her death, had her baby ripped from her womb after she was killed.
That baby, named Eli, and Evans’ 22-month-old son Jordan survived the attack, and their grandfather Sam Evans is speaking out about his traumatic experiences, and the helping hand he’s offering to Ochoa’s family after her death.
“It broke me. It just broke me,” Evans said in a phone interview. “I felt for the mother. I felt for the baby. I felt for the family. Man, all those feelings, it’s just like (Debra’s death) happened all over again.”
Sam Evans raised Eli and Jordan after his daughter’s death, but he credits his grandsons with helping him through an incredibly difficult time.
“We could have laid down and died, but we didn’t,” he said.
Three people were ultimately convicted in Evans’ slaying, with Fedell Caffey and Levern Ward both being sentenced to death before their sentences were commuted by Governor George Ryan’s elimination of the death penalty in the state of Illinois. Both are serving life in prison, and Jacqueline Annette Williams, also convicted in the crime, has sought to have her sentence shortened, but remains in custody.
Evans’ grandson Eli, who survived the brutal attack, has asked his grandfather not to disclose where they are or what they are doing, but Sam is clearly proud of the young man his grandson has become.
“They are sharp, and they are doing well,” he said. “They’re doing well. We’ve all survived.”
Evans also has advice for Ochoa’s family as they deal with the tragedy of losing their young daughter, wife, and mother, saying that they should be honest with her surviving son about what happened to his mom.
“Dad, you love that kid and don’t be afraid to tell him everything about the good and the bad about his mother,” he said. “He has a right to know, because he’s been robbed of years and years of being with his mommy.”
Sam Evans also called on the community to support Ochoa’s husband, children, and parents, saying that notes and hugs are incredibly powerful during the healing process.
He also offered a helping hand to the Ochoa family, saying that if they ever need to talk, or even if they just need a hug, he’s willing to be there for them.