October 2, 2014
By Lauren Leone-Cross for The Herald-News
The lights dimmed Thursday from inside the Joliet Park District’s Multipurpose Center as the names of domestic abuse victims in Will County from the past decade were read aloud.
Briana Valle, Sharleatha Green and Joslyn Woods – all of whom died this year – were the last three names called on a list of 54 during the 18th annual Will County Take Back the Night march. Thursday’s event was held as part of a worldwide effort to fight domestic violence against women and children.
Alisha Bromfield, 21, of Plainfield was one of those on the list of names read aloud. Bromfield was murdered by her manager, Brian Cooper, also of Plainfield, back in 2012 while the two were attending his sister’s wedding in Wisconsin. She was seven months pregnant at the time.
“I miss her talking to me about her baby and her plans for the future. I miss her asking me for my advice and my opinion. I miss being my daughter’s mother,” Bromfield’s mother, Sherry Anicich, said to a crowd of more than 300 seated in the bleachers.
Cooper’s first trial in 2013 ended with a mistrial by a hung jury, in part because of a state law used by defense lawyers who argued he was too drunk to intentionally strangle her.
It wasn’t until Anicich lobbied Wisconsin lawmakers to strike down the law that Cooper was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole.
“Many of you here tonight have similar stories of violence, maybe a situation where you felt abused, neglected, or somebody who’s standing among us may be victims of rape,” Anicich said. “I’m here to tell you tonight that after everything I’ve endured over the last two years, I am still able to stand here before you and share my message.”
Brian Cooper’s sister, Kellie Stryker, joined Anicich during Will County Take Back the Night. The 29-year-old told the crowd of her own battle growing up in a mentally and physically abusive home and how – after her brother’s first trial – she ended all contact with her family.
“I’m living proof that despite abuse, hardships and unperceivable tragedy, fear cannot decide my fate,” Stryker said, who helped Anicich lobby legislators earlier this year for the law change.
Anicich told the crowd she believes her daughter’s murder could have been prevented if someone – Cooper’s employer, in particular – had spoken up about his behavior patterns and violent tendencies. Anicich filed a lawsuit against his employer, Home Depot, earlier this year. She urged the crowd to watch out for each other and not turn the other way.
“Notice red flags and do something about them. Go with your gut. Don’t tolerate bad behavior and don’t let others tolerate them either. Young ladies here tonight, support your girlfriends,” Anicich said. “You need to lift each other up, not bring each other down. There’s so much sadness in life that we cannot control.”
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, who has been involved with Will County Take Back the Night since its inception 18 years ago, was honored with an award Thursday night.
“[Will County Take Back the Night] works tirelessly to bring the public’s attention to violence against women,” he said.
Also present at the Will County Take Back the Night event were Alicia Guerrero and Alejandro Valle, the parents of Briana Valle, the Romeoville teenager who was murdered earlier this year by her ex-boyfriend, Erick Maya. Maya was convicted last month.
Guerrero, who was holding a photo of Briana, and Alejandro Valle broke down in tears as their daughter’s name was read aloud of the list in her remembrance.
After Stryker and Anicich spoke, event participants took to the streets with orange balloons, marching down Jefferson Street in protest of violence against women.
All of Thursday night’s proceeds will go to local battered women’s shelters.