Time and again Alicia Guerrero had sought protection from the man accused of shooting her in the neck and fatally wounding her 15-year-old daughter last month in the driveway of their Romeoville home.
A Tribune review of court records captures the mother's harrowing, nearly yearlong quest to shield her child, Briana Valle, from Erick Maya, 23, the teen's former boyfriend who is charged with her death.
They were shot in their car Feb. 13 as Guerrero prepared to take her daughter to school.
"I can't think or have peace," Guerrero had written last March as she sought an emergency order of protection against Maya. "He is an adult and she is a minor. I want him to leave us alone."
The peace she looked for proved elusive. Court records and interviews with law enforcement officials reveal a series of clerical errors and faulty addresses that may have led to nearly a dozen failed attempts by Cook and Will County authorities to serve Maya with the orders of protection that Guerrero had been granted. And some of these miscues happened after Maya was convicted of domestic abuse, put on probation and wore an ankle monitor.
But there also were other missed opportunities. Just a week before Briana was fatally wounded, a Cook County judge declined to issue an arrest warrant for Maya after he failed to appear in court for a Feb. 6 status hearing on an unrelated domestic abuse case. The judge, citing the frigid weather, let Maya's absence slide but said he would issue the warrant if he didn't appear at his next court date, Feb. 19.
"This could've been prevented," Guerrero told the Tribune in a written statement. "We are so angry and hurt."
The Tribune also learned that federal authorities in October 2011 placed an "immigration detainer," or hold, on Maya after he was arrested in the abuse case. In such instances, law enforcement agencies are asked to notify immigration before releasing the detainee and to maintain custody for up to an additional 48 hours so they may respond.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said their request was ignored. Maya, who was believed to be in the country illegally, was released one month after Cook County enacted a controversial ordinance that orders the sheriff to refuse to cooperate with such detention requests.
"The release of a serious criminal offender like Mr. Maya to the streets in Cook County, rather than to ICE custody, undermines ICE's ability to protect public safety and impedes us from enforcing the nation's immigration laws," said Gail Montenegro, a Chicago spokeswoman for the federal agency.
Sheriff Tom Dart opposed the ordinance requiring that his office refuse to follow through on ICE deportations but has no choice but to follow the county's order, according to a spokesman.
The Tribune's review of the case raises questions about whether enough was done to protect Guerrero and her daughter from a man with a history of violence. The incident also underscores the inherent limits in the protective order system, experts say.
Advocates stress that even when an abuser is served with an order of protection, it is only effective when that person chooses to abide by it. A victim can do everything right and still end up face to face with the last person they want to see.
"With an offender that's determined enough, the order of protection doesn't build a wall around you," said Amy Milligan, counseling and advocacy director at the Wheaton-based Family Shelter Service.
Officials with the Cook County Adult Probation Department also said they are reviewing whether Maya's case was properly handled by his probation officer.
Maya, captured near the family's home shortly after the shootings, is being held in the Will County Jail on charges that include murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation for domestic battery against a former girlfriend.
Alicia Guerrero's requests for orders of protection reveal a frightened mother driven to the brink.
"She feels afraid of him and what he might do to us," Guerrero said of her young daughter, according to court documents. "I fear for our safety."
Maya's alleged harassment of the family began after Briana, then 13, met him on Facebook in June 2012, when her family lived in Chicago's Little Village. At the time, he was 21 but claimed to be 16, Guerrero alleged in court records.