Illinois’ top parole official quits amid controversy over release of man accused of attacking woman and killing her 11-year-old son

Illinois’ top parole official quits amid controversy over release of man accused of attacking woman and killing her 11-year-old son

The state’s top parole official resigned from his post Monday after his board allowed a parolee with a history of violence against women to be released from state custody before, authorities say, he attacked a pregnant woman he once dated and killed her 11-year-old son when the child came to her rescue.

Donald Shelton served on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for more than a decade and led the 13-member panel since last year. His resignation was announced Monday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker hours after the governor also disclosed that one of Shelton’s board members, LeAnn Miller, quit her post for her role in allowing Crosetti Brand, the suspect in the fatal stabbing of 11-year-old Jayden Perkins, to be released from custody following a hearing to determine whether he violated his parole.

Authorities alleged the day after his release, Brand stabbed to death Jayden on March 13 when the boy tried to intervene in Brand’s attack on the boy’s pregnant mother at her residence on Chicago’s North Side. She was also stabbed during the attack but survived.

Pritzker on Monday afternoon praised Shelton, a former Champaign police sergeant, for “providing a model of dedication to public service” and working “diligently to keep Illinoisans safe and uphold our justice system.”

But hours earlier, the governor was more critical of Miller in announcing her departure.

“The Prisoner Review Board must be able to operate independently as they review enormously difficult cases, but I believe LeAnn Miller has made the correct decision in stepping down from her role,” Pritzker said a statement Monday. “It is clear that evidence in this case was not given the careful consideration that victims of domestic violence deserve and I am committed to ensuring additional safeguards and training are in place to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.”

The governor’s office said he will be working with the Illinois General Assembly in the coming weeks to address vacancies on the board and will be conducting “a thorough search for qualified candidates.”

Shelton declined to comment. Miller, a former school district administrator from far downstate Gallatin County, could not be reached for comment. Shelton earned an annual salary of $108,189 a year and Miller’s salary was $96,920 a year, records show.

Their resignations mark the latest controversy for this little-known board under the Pritzker administration.

In 2022, Republican lawmakers criticized the governor for appointing board members who they felt were too lenient in granting parole to older people locked up in prison for decades after being convicted of particularly heinous crimes.

The state Senate in that instance rejected two of Pritzker’s appointments, both Democrats. Meanwhile, another Democratic appointee resigned and the appointment of a fourth Pritzker interim board member, an independent, was withdrawn by the governor.

Shelton, first appointed to the board in 2012 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, and Miller, appointed to the panel in 2021 by Pritzker, were both Republicans. Their departures mean the board will be comprised of 11 members: Seven Democrats, three Republicans and an independent. At full strength, the board can have 15 members with a maximum of eight from the same political party.

In a statement on Monday, House Republican leader Tony McCombie, of Savanna, called for an overhaul of the review board.

“Lives were lost because of the lack of responsibility and due diligence at the PRB,” she said. “When innocent people die because of bad policy, we must correct course immediately.”

Senate Republican leader John Curran, of Downers Grove, was also critical of the review board under Pritzker’s leadership.

“Sadly, it is clear that the serious reforms that we have been calling for at the Prisoner Review Board are needed now more than ever,” Curran said in a statement. “This is another example of Gov. Pritzker failing to oversee an agency under his direct control. His attention should be focused on the life and death matters of our state.”

Last week, Pritzker indicated that changes needed to be made in the ways that the court system, law enforcement agencies and the review board communicate when dangerous criminals are released from prison.

“It’s an independent board and I do believe that they have the ability to make changes in the way that they communicate and I encourage them to do that, and certainly would work with anybody that will help us to accomplish that goal,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference on March 18. “The entire matter is tragic.”

On Monday, the Pritzker administration said it asked the review board to work with “experts and advocates” to expand its training in handling domestic violence cases. Pritzker also directed the board and the Illinois Department of Corrections to review “the current rules and procedures for receiving information related to cases involving domestic violence” and to decide whether any changes are necessary.

“As the administration continues to review the facts in this case, it may pursue any broader statutory or policy changes needed to strengthen PRB’s review of similar cases moving forward,” the governor’s office said.

According to review board records obtained through an open-records request, Brand was granted mandatory supervised release — Illinois’ version of parole — in October, placed on GPS monitoring and ordered not to contact another woman he attacked in 2015 as well as Jayden’s mother, records show. The parole release was for the 2015 case in which Brand was originally sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The review board records only list one active order of protection against Brand at the time of his release in the fall, and that one was in reference to the 2015 case. Cook County officials have previously said Jayden’s mother had a lifetime order of protection against Brand, though there’s no indication that order is listed in the review board records.

Prosecutors said Brand sent Jayden’s mother a text message on Jan. 30 threatening her and her family and showed up at her apartment Feb. 1.

He rang the doorbell multiple times and tried to pull the door handle out of the door, authorities said. The woman contacted the parole board and he was sent back to prison, authorities said.

Though prosecutors indicated in court that there was already an active order of protection, court records show that Jayden’s mother sought an emergency order of protection against Brand after that incident, just weeks before the attack. In her petition, she said Brand had attempted to break into her apartment Feb. 1.

According to a Feb. 1 parole violation report associated with the attempted break-in, Jayden’s mother called authorities and “identified herself as a known victim of (Brand) and reported that he was at her address ringing her door bell and pulling on the door handle.”

Brand, who was arrested for allegedly violating his parole in that instance, initially told his parole supervisor he was at the address looking for a new apartment, according to the report.

A review board order dated Feb. 26 shows that Brand’s attorney said there was no evidence he had been at the woman’s door. Brand himself said his GPS would have shown if he had been near the woman he was directed not to contact and it had not.

Records show board members, including Miller, found there was not a preponderance of evidence regarding Brand’s alleged parole violations. The two other board members joining Miller in the decision were Ken Tupy, a Republican from Sangamon County, and Krystal Tison, an independent from far downstate Saline County. Brand was then released from state custody March 12.

The next day, Jayden’s mother was on the phone with her mother for a usual morning check-in and was about to take her sons, Jayden and a 5-year-old, to school, Cook County prosecutors said earlier this month.

As she unlocked the door of her residence to leave, Brand forced his way inside and attacked her in the apartment in the 5900 block of North Ravenswood Avenue, prosecutors said.

Jayden “attempted numerous times to help his mother” and was stabbed in the process, prosecutors said. At one point, the woman locked herself in another room, prosecutors said, and Brand kicked the door repeatedly. When she opened the door, authorities say Brand had fled the apartment and had taken her cellphone.

Prosecutors said the woman, who was engaged to someone else, was in a romantic relationship with Brand more than 15 years ago. Brand has racked up multiple convictions for battering her, threatening her and her mother and violating orders of protection, court records show.

In 2006, Brand came to a home she shared with her mother shortly after she broke up with him, waved a gun at them and threatened them, records show. At one point, he fired the gun in their hallway before fleeing, according to a motion filed by prosecutors in an unrelated case seeking to admit past crimes.

Despite an order of protection, Brand’s alleged harassment of them persisted over the next two years. For instance, he was accused of throwing rocks at their windows and calling them repeatedly.

A full two years after the breakup, Brand punched her in the head at a bus stop while yelling about her dating other men, the motion alleged. Brand also has convictions for battering other women.

In 2013, Brand pleaded guilty to charges of domestic battery for punching a woman, who had ended a relationship with him, hard enough to knock her unconscious and leave her bleeding from the mouth. Before the physical confrontation, he told her, “I’m gonna blow your head off, you think you gonna leave that easy,” according to a motion in that case.

Later, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the 2015 attack on another woman, who had also ended a relationship with him, according to court documents. He also allegedly threatened her son when he tried to intervene.

The Illinois Department of Corrections recommended that Brand receive anger management counseling and the review board required that he receive domestic violence counseling upon his October release, according to review board records. The IDOC and review board each said Brand should undergo cognitive behavioral therapy.