Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) was brought to tears when reading two House resolutions.
“Today I am joined by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) and Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle) to remember Pamela Sue Knight, who passed away over the weekend,” McCombie said during Tuesday’s House floor debate. “Like most of you here, we did not know Pam personally, but was introduced to her through the tragedy that took her life.”
McCombie continued detailing the death of the Department of Children and Family Services and Lutheran Social Services employee, wife, mother and friend who was brutally beaten when attempting to take a 2-year-old boy into protective custody from an unsafe environment in Milledgeville in September.
“The boy's father physically and violently assaulted her and officials stated that Pam Knight was kicked in the head and the beating to her skull caused permanent brain damage, injuries that she would never recover from,” McCombie said.
She shared how Knight’s husband and daughter stood by her side as they have prayed for her to awaken from her coma and numerous surgeries.
“They watched as health care workers tried to teach her new ways to communicate with her eyes when she could no longer speak and while she underwent hours of physical therapy in an attempt to regain movement in her arms and in her legs,” McCombie said. “On Feb. 8 her condition worsened, and she sadly succumbed to her injuries.”
McCombie detailed Knight’s life, noting she studied family social services at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and later went on to become a welfare specialist at Lutheran Social Services for nearly 20 years before coming to the Department of Children and Family Services 11 years ago.
“Pam literally gave her life trying to protect our most vulnerable,” McCombie said, adding as a member of AFSME Local 448, Knight was given a Public Service Award at the union's 20th biannual convention in October.
“That award reads: ‘In recognition of exemplary dedication to the mission of child protection and family support for going above and beyond the call of duty and to providing all Illinois citizens a powerful reminder of the vital work that public servant employees perform everyday,'” McCombie read. “With our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the future we hold you in our hearts.”
McCombie said Knight’s death and attack is not an isolated incident, and since 2013 a dozen children services employees have been attacked. She said it is lawmakers’ responsibility to enact laws that may help protect those that we serve.
“In response we have introduced two bills, HB4147 and HB4586, to strengthen criminal penalties for people that commit these unforgivable and heinous acts,” McCombie said.
She asked all join in the resolution before taking a moment of silence.
“Keep her in our memory, but most importantly her sacrifice of her life for protecting those who cannot stand up for themselves,” McCombie said.