The defendant’s family speaks out

Rhonda Silence

The day after the shooting at the Cook County courthouse, the Cook County News-Herald sat down with the family of the man ultimately charged with the crime. On Friday, December 16, Daniel Schlienz’s mother, father, aunts, sister and nieces shared their heartbreak over the event.

On December 19, Schlienz was charged with two counts of premeditated attempted murder, but the day after the shooting, the family, like the rest of the community, didn’t know what the charges would be. And they, like the rest of the community, were deeply saddened and shocked by what had happened.

Schlienz’s sister, Bev Wolke, said they wanted to talk to the News-Herald, to tell community members how very sorry they are about the shooting. “We need our community to know that we don’t condone what he did,” said Wolke. “We are so very sorry about what happened.”

But family members said they could see his frustration. Wolke said, “Because of all this he lost his job, his home, his friends. I lost friends because I’m his sister. We all lost friends. I’m not saying what he did was right, but every person has a breaking point. I hope to God no one else ever has to go through this.”

Much of the frustration came from the fact that other men in the community have pursued young girls as Schlienz had. Wolke said, “Dan knew it was wrong. But I can name 20 other guys who are doing the same thing.’”

His mother, Ginger Berglund, who was with Schlienz at the time of the shooting and who helped get the weapon away from him, asked, “If others were doing it, why did the county go after Dan? There are other girls going out with older guys. Why was he pushed so hard?”

Despite his obvious anger and frustration, they didn’t believe he would ever hurt anyone. They cited instances of his kindness—his feeding of a “button buck” (young buck) that followed him home and his insistence that a kitten with an injured leg be cared for. He could be counted on to help his family members and elderly neighbors.

In fact, that is what drew him to the young girls, said one family member. He wanted to care for them, which, they said, is why he bought them presents and wanted to be with them.

Gary Schlienz, Dan’s father, said of one of the girls involved, “He was in love with her. He wanted to marry her.”

The family knew he was tired of fighting the charges. Berglund said there were so many rumors, so many things being said that were not true. There was so much animosity, in fact, that when his sister heard that there had been a shooting at the close of the trial, she thought someone had shot Dan.

He had desperately wanted to clear his name, which is why he pushed for a new trial. “He just snapped,” said Berglund. “He said, ‘I’ve always hated people who rape, and now people think that is what I am.'"

“The lawyer told him it wouldn’t be that bad; he would only have to serve a couple of months. But he said, no, [County Attorney] Scannell would get the other girls to come after him and it would never end,” said Berglund.

“He wasn’t the Dan I know,” she added tearfully.

They knew he was depressed and they were concerned that he would take his own life if the jury came back with a guilty verdict. His niece said it was hard to live with that concern. “Every time you saw him, you said, ‘I love you,’ because it might be the last time you ever saw him,” she said shakily.

They never imagined he would hurt others. They believe that Schlienz did not intend to kill anyone. “We really think he wanted the cops to kill him,” said Berglund.

“We grieve for the people who were hurt and their families,” said his aunt, Kathy Finn. “We want everyone to know how sorry we are.”

In addition to shock and sadness, there is some fear of how the community will feel about their family because of Schlienz’s actions. “Dan is part of our family,” said his niece, “But we are not Dan.”

Wolke said, “As a sister, I want to be there for him. But I’m scared about how people will react if I support him.”

“We are so sorry,” said Gary Schlienz, saying something he has repeated over and over since the shooting. “If we had any inkling this was going to happen, we would have tried to stop him.”

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