Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mother of 3 strangled in home, allegedly by "husband"

A mother of 3 who worked at a suburban Chicago zoo as an outreach coordinator was strangled, allegedly by her husband, around 2 AM Saturday, April 10, in their west suburban Chicago home, according to police.

Ian A. Alamilla, 33, a Westmont resident who is a Belize native, was charged by DuPage County, IL prosecutors with 1st degree murder for strangling his "wife," 34 year old Tara, in the basement of her Westmont home. Ian drove to the Central District Police Station in Chicago's near south side around 5:30 AM and turned himself to police. According to DuPage County prosecutor Robert Berlin, Alamilla said that he had been in a fight with his wife and that police should check on her.

Chicago police contacted their Westmont counterparts, who found the mother of three dead in her basement. Her kids, 2, 5, and 11, were found by police asleep and physically unharmed.

The couple had been separated since March 5, 2010, after Tara filed for divorce. The divorce papers make no allegations of DV, and according to neighbors, the couple, who still lived within several blocks of each other,were trying to repair their marriage. Ian was at his wife's home for the youngest child's birthday party.

Christin O'Malley said, "They were very cordial with each other. Never once did she ever say he was violent She was a good person, but so was Ian. That's why this is so shocking."

At Brookfield Zoo, where Tara Alamilla had worked since 2006, she had established a reputation for making inroads with Chicago Public Schools teachers in the zoo's new education program. A teacher-development program that she coordinated, Levels of Engagement, won the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Education Award in 2009, officials said.

More recently, Alamilla was helping with the design of wildlife clubs in Guyana, said Stuart Strahl, president and chief executive officer of the zoological society. Earlier, Alamilla also had managed the zoo's accessibility program for children with disabilities, arranging internships and volunteer opportunities, Strahl added.

"She was a remarkable woman with a huge heart that would reach almost anybody at any level," Strahl said. "Her passing is a great loss."

Brookfield Zoo made grief counselors available to employees and set up a memorial fund in Tara Aramilla's name to enhance the institution's education efforts.

DuPage County, IL State's Attorney Joe Birkett said that "Tragically, Tara's life was taken on the birthday of her youngest child. The heartbreaking, senseless loss of life in this case is compounded because it involves three young children who have lost their mother and now see their father accused of taking her life."

DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan set Ian's bail at $2 million.

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