Basha Smalley on the back landing of her Chicago apartment. James Foster / For Sun-Times Media

A mother struggles to find a safe place

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This is the kind of relationship that often ends in violence.

Basha Smalley, 37, is trying to get away from her husband, Burnyss D. Perry, a man she refers to as “Mr. Perry” and claims is abusive.

But so far, the 59-year-old Perry hasn’t been found guilty on any domestic violence charges.

As is often the case with domestic violence allegations, Smalley admits that she did not show up for some of the court proceedings.

For instance, in 2003, Smalley accused Perry of hitting her then 3-year-old daughter with a clothes hanger. He was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with child abuse. But the case was ultimately dropped, according to a spokesman for the Las Vegas Police Department.

“I was pregnant and didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Smalley told me, explaining why she didn’t follow through on her complaint and married Perry two years later.


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In 2008, Perry was convicted in Illinois on nine counts of various criminal offenses related to a mortgage fraud scheme. Perry was sentenced to seven years in prison.

During Perry’s incarceration in Jacksonville Correctional Center, Smalley and three daughters moved into a building that Perry allegedly owned on the South Side.

That six-unit building has no gas or working plumbing and is in such disrepair that Smalley is now on the verge of homelessness.

“Me and my kids are going to end up sleeping at a hotel or in my car,” Smalley told me on Monday.

Meanwhile, she keeps going back and forth to court for her divorce case because of a custody dispute and on alleged violations of an order of protection.

Last Friday, prosecutors took a pass on Smalley’s latest claim that Perry violated the protection order by showing up in the hallway of the dilapidated building carrying a hammer.

“This isn’t making any sense. What good is it to even have an order of protection?” Smalley asked. “They let that man walk right out of there. I feel they really violated my rights.”

A spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said “the violation was dropped because prosecutors couldn’t meet their burden of proof.”

“The defendant didn’t say anything to the victim. And he was in a hallway of the building, not in any particular space of the victim,” Tandra Simonton told me.

In another incident, Perry was also found not guilty of the violating the protection order when Smalley alleged he threatened her with a gun.

“He was locked up for seven months. … She had her older daughter testify and the judge found her not credible and threw out the case. Whatever story she told you is false,” said Perry’s attorney, Robert A. Habib.

After his acquittal, Perry asked that the order of protection be terminated because he was the “maintenance man” for the building and he lived there and worked there, Simonton said.

“The judged modified the [order of protection] to say the defendant could be at that building and no longer listed it as a protected address,” Simonton said.

When Perry showed up five days later, Smalley was still frantically searching for somewhere to go.

On Wednesday, the city’s Department of Family and Support Services got involved. Hopefully, Smalley will find a new path in life.

Because it is unsettling — and a bit scary — that after 10 years of marriage she always calls her husband “Mr. Perry.”

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