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‘Pure evil,’ chief says of Hazel Crest shooting of dad, 2 girls

When the shooting stopped, Erin Neely’s first thoughts were to secure her home and check on her five children and husband, who were asleep on two twin beds and a couch in the living room of their Hazel Crest home.

“After I didn’t hear any more shots I crawled on the floor and closed the front door because it was open,” she said. “And then I crawled over to the couch where my two daughters were sleeping and pulled them down to the floor. And they were limp.”

Both girls, 3-year-old Endia and 10-year-old Elle Neely, had been fatally shot and were pronounced dead a short time later.

The shooting happened about 2:20 a.m. Saturday at the family’s single-story home in the 2400 block of Crescent Drive.

“I checked on my husband and he was unresponsive,” she said.

Dionus M. Neely, 39, had also suffered a fatal gunshot wound. The couple’s 11-year-old son, who was in the same bed, was not injured.

“I think he tried to cover him with his body,” Erin Neely said Sunday.

All three deaths were ruled homicides, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Elle Neely (clockwise, from upper left), Dionus Neely and Endia Neely were killed in a shooting early Saturday. | Facebook
Elle Neely (clockwise, from upper left), Dionus Neely and Endia Neely were killed in a shooting early Saturday. | Facebook

Another son, an 8-year-old, and a 1-year-old daughter were not hurt.

She recalled dialing 911 as her three surviving children cried hysterically.

“Only by the grace of God we weren’t hit,” she said.

The home’s front door had been boarded up and several bullet holes could be seen in a front window Sunday afternoon as detectives canvassed the neighborhood.

Erin Neely said police told her it’s possible someone kicked in the font door and fired shots, as well as shots were fired at the home from outside.

“This was not a random act of violence, this was a targeted event. So the community of Hazel Crest is safe,” Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis said during a news conference Sunday. He would not elaborate about what led him to that conclusion because, he said, it might jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

More than 30 detectives from the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force — composed of investigators from the state police, several suburban police departments and the Cook County sheriff’s office — were working on the case.

“We need the help of the community. What happened yesterday was nothing short of evil at its best,” Davis said. “Anyone who could kill a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old, that’s pure evil as far as I’m concerned.”

Investigators knew of no suspects, he said.

“You cannot commit a crime like the one that was committed yesterday and have no one know about it. Somebody knows about what transpired,” said Davis, urging anyone with tips to call Hazel Crest Police.

Davis said police had only been to the home once before for a report of property damage several months ago.

Bullet holes in a window of the Neely family’s home in the the 2400 block of Crescent Drive in Hazel Crest. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
Bullet holes in a window of the Neely family’s home in the the 2400 block of Crescent Drive in Hazel Crest. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Erin Neely said she wants to see whomever was behind the shooting go to prison for life.

“They did not deserve this,” she said.

“Endia was the light of this world, always smiling and hugging and laughing. And Elle was a dancer. She was the life of the party,” Neely said.

“And my husband, he was a stay-at-home dad. He was a good father. He loved all his kids.”

Neely, who works as a restaurant hostess, acknowledged her husband had a criminal record, including drug-related arrests.

“He’d cleaned up his life,” she said, adding she had no idea who would want to harm her family.

The slaying of Dionus Neely leaves 10 children without a father.

Lakeisha Brandon has three children with Neely.

“He’s a very good father who was involved in all his kids’ lives,” said Brandon, whose kids are 16, 20 and 23. “It feels like it’s a nightmare right now.”

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who’s made fighting gun violence a priority, attended the news conference.

The shooting happened only about a 10-minute drive from her home in Matteson, Kelly said.

“This makes me want to keep fighting. I will talk about this when I go back to D.C.,” Kelly said. “It’s the wind beneath my wings in a lot of ways to keep fighting so we’re not losing another generation of kids, which is what it feels like some times.”

Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis (left) and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (right) spoke at a news conference Sunday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis (left) and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (right) spoke at a news conference Sunday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times