(MCT) — CHICAGO — An Illinois mother who left her daughter in the care of a baby sitter while she went to work learned after a frantic search Tuesday night that her little girl had been slain by the caretaker, along with the caretaker’s own son, officials said.
The baby sitter, Elzbieta M. Plackowska, 40, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder Wednesday night, according to DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. Sources said the woman had given various explanations for what happened, including hearing demonic voices that led her to stab the children to death.
The bodies of the children — who sources identified as Olivia Dworakowski, 5, and Justin Plackowska, 7 or 8 — were discovered by police in a bedroom of the girl’s town home in suburban Naperville, officials said.
Plackowska, who is also identified in public records as Plackowski, was taken to the DuPage County jail and is expected to appear in bond court Thursday morning. She has no previous criminal history, prosecutors said.
As details of the killings on the quiet cul de sac slowly emerged, residents throughout the community reacted with shock. Some wondered how to carry on with regular Halloween activities while others worried about how their children would react when they found out about the deaths.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Laura Maniaci of Naperville, who has two children at Scott Elementary School, where the young boy was a student. “How do you explain this to your child? I don’t know.”
Children showed up in jellyfish and pumpkin costumes for the annual Halloween parade at the school, where students were offered counseling by crisis teams expected to remain as long as necessary to deal with the “tragic and upsetting event,” said Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges.
Across town, counselors were also on hand for students at Brookdale Elementary, which confirmed the death of a kindergarten student on its website.
Tim Prerost, who has a daughter at Scott, said, “It’s unthinkable, it’s shocking, but we don’t know what really happened.”
Another parent who would only identify herself as Christine said, “It’s horribly sad. It’s a tight-knit school and it’s really difficult for everyone.”
Neighbors and a source close to the investigation identified Olivia’s mother as Marta Dworakowski, a nurse, who worked an evening shift at a dialysis lab. She declined to talk to a reporter when reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.
The children were found stabbed multiple times in a town home in the Brookdale Manor subdivision in the northwestern corner of Naperville. The boy was on a mattress and the girl on the floor, officials said.
Two dogs were also found stabbed to death in the home, sources said.
According to a law enforcement source, Plackowska told police she had taken the children with her to a church in Naperville earlier Tuesday, then returned to the Dworakowski home.
At some point Tuesday night, Plackowska argued on the phone with her husband because she wanted to return to her native Poland while he wanted to remain here.
Plackowska allegedly told police that she attacked the children after hearing demonic voices. She allegedly told police she had to save the children’s souls from the devil by killing them, according to the source.
When pressed, she told authorities she was also angry with her husband, and distraught over the death of her father in Poland, the source said.
After the slayings, Plackowska drove back to the church, but couldn’t reach anyone, she told authorities. She also left several frantic voice messages on the church’s answering machine before ultimately tossing her cellphone out the car window, officials said.
Plackowska, who was covered in blood, then drove to her adult son’s home in Naperville, where the son called 911, sources said. Police said they were alerted at 10:18 p.m. Tuesday and had to break into the Dworakowski home.
Investigators recovered a kitchen knife believed to have been used in the attack, according to a source.
Michelle Jones, who lives in the same complex as Plackowska, in Naperville, said she frequently saw Plackowska with Justin and his older sibling, and with Olivia.
Dworakowski, Olivia’s mother, also was a familiar face, who regularly came to the building to scoop her daughter up at the end of the day, Jones said.
On Tuesday evening about 7:30 p.m., Jones saw Plackowska again with Justin, Olivia and a dog.
Justin said “hi” and everything seemed normal, Jones said.
But by 11 p.m. Tuesday, Jones saw Dworakowski in a panicked and emotional state while speaking with police in the buidling’s lobby.
“My heart bled for her. She was sitting out there trying to talk to the police and then she started crying, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t imagine what you’re going through,’ ” said Jones. “It’s 11 o’clock and you don’t know where your kid is.”
Another of Plackowska’s neighbors, Angela Pombert, 32, said she also saw the distraught mother speaking with police.
“I felt awful for them,” Pombert said. “She was hysterical almost.”
DuPage County officials hung a yellow tarp to block the view as they removed the bodies of the children from the Dworakowski home Wednesday afternoon.
As the sun set, crime scene tape remained up on the garage and on the front of the home, while trick-or-treaters raced from house to house collecting candy.
Outside Plackowska’s home, a young boy stood in front of the building, looking up at a balcony where his friend’s Huffy Pro Thunder bike perched.
He called out, “Justin!” loudly into the cold air before turning to run away.
(Tribune reporters James Webb, Matthew Walberg, Erin Meyer and freelance reporter Joseph Ruzich contributed to this report.)