Kadiedra Shontell Speed’s experience in Illinois’ child-welfare system has included being placed with adoptive parents who ended up abusing her, stays in psychiatric hospitals, addresses at four homes in the last five years and several arrests for fighting, according to court records and sources.
Now 20, she’s still a ward of the state after her failed adoption, years earlier. Over Labor Day weekend, she had another run-in with the law — this time with deadly consequences.
After arguing with her 34-year-old roommate, Speed left in a rage and returned hours later, allegedly stabbing the woman to death in their basement apartment in Joliet, Will County prosecutors and neighbors say.
She’s believed to be the first ward in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to be charged with murder since 2009, when another ward, D’Andre Howard, then 20, stabbed his fiancee’s sister, father and grandmother to death in Hoffman Estates.
A report in 2012 by the DCFS inspector general about that case — in which Howard was found guilty and is now serving three life sentences — was supposed to lead to greater oversight of hundreds of older wards, who typically are in “independent living” programs run by social service agencies that DCFS hires. Inspector General Denise Kane revealed Howard had a history of sexual assault arrests and a “long history of violence” that “indicated an urgent need for services.” But she concluded “a lack of communication among involved professionals,” including DCFS’ sexual abuse services coordinator, led to a DCFS contractor inadequately supervising Howard.
Whether child-welfare workers missed warning signs of potential violent behavior by Speed is difficult to assess. There’s no indication the fights she had in high school caused any serious injuries, and her most recent involvement in the court system before her murder arrest involved her winning an order of protection in February against a parolee boyfriend she said beat her up.
Karen Hawkins, DCFS’ communications chief, declined to comment about Speed, as did social service contractors who had worked with her.
Speed had been in an independent-living program at the time she filed the order of protection, court records show. She reported living in an apartment in Crest Hill, working at a Home Depot warehouse and attending Joliet Junior College. A college spokeswoman said Speed had been enrolled for the spring semester but did not complete her studies.
According to DCFS rules, wards in independent living “can reasonably be expected to live autonomously and without daily staff oversight” and by age 20 1/2 are expected to be living “without financial support.” Caseworkers are required to see independent-living wards “at least twice per month,” with at least one visit taking place in the ward’s home.
“Youth who cannot succeed in [independent living] will be considered for a more supportive living arrangement,” a DCFS policy manual states.
Speed and the woman she allegedly killed, Sharleatha M. Green, moved in to their apartment at 210 N. Eastern Ave. in Joliet about a month before the Aug. 31 slaying, neighbors said. After arguing with Green and leaving, Speed returned with a man and entered the apartment through a ground-floor window.
Speed is accused of stabbing Green to death, according to court records. She’s now being held at the Will County Jail on $1.5 million bail. She pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Wednesday. The Will County Public Defender’s office, which is representing her, declined to comment.
Speed was born in 1994 in Milwaukee, according to court records. It’s unclear when she came to Illinois and when she was adopted. She had spent time in psychiatric hospitals after her adoptive parents ended up abusing her as a young girl, sources said.
In 2009, she was arrested three times for disorderly conduct while living in a group home in Downers Grove operated by ChildServ Inc., records show. She was sentenced to court supervision and community service, which she successfully completed.
The following year, Speed lived at a foster home in Romeoville. Police reports show that she and other teens living there often tried to run away.
In October 2010, Speed again was arrested for disorderly conduct, this time at Plainfield Central High School. She initially was sentenced to court supervision, but that sentence was revoked, and she ended up paying $260 in fines and court costs.
In 2011, Speed — then in the care of a DCFS contractor called Our Children’s Homestead, records show — filed paperwork to change her last name to “Edward.” On court papers, she listed the reason for the change as “failed adoption.” But she never went back to court, so her name was never changed.
Speed’s roommate Green, a cocktail server at Hollywood Casino Joliet, met Speed through their respective boyfriends, said Annetta Windman, Green’s older sister. “I don’t think they knew each other very long,” Windman said.
What little information Windman knows about Speed came from an “adoptive sister” of Speed’s that Windman said she met at Will County court.
“From what I understand, she was always a troubled kid,” Windman said of Speed.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.
Chris Fusco is a Sun-Times staff reporter. Follow him @fuscochris.