Mother saw no signs of trouble before ex-husband shot children — (Chicago Daily Herald)

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Chicago Daily Herald

Sunday April 14 08:43 AM EDT

By Stacy St. Clair, Daily Herald Staff Writer

Andrea Bahena thought it strange when her ex-husband appeared on her doorstep late Monday night, but she welcomed him in, anyway.  Tomas Bahena, 44, rarely came by after dark unless it was an emergency. He appeared to be in a genuine predicament, claiming his car had broken down and asking to sleep on the couch.
His ex-wife agreed, unwittingly starting a deadly chain of events inside the family’s Glendale Heights home. By dawn, Tomas and their son Christopher, 14, would be dead, and their two daughters fighting for life.
“Tomas seemed fine,” Andrea Bahena says in her first interview since the shooting spree. “I don’t know why this happened. I am so confused.”
Tomas Bahena, a custodian, arrived at his ex-wife’s house Monday after finishing the night shift at a Northbrook elementary school.
His 12-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, was thrilled by her father’s unexpected visit, and rushed about the house grabbing linens to make up a bed for him.
He and Andrea chatted amicably.
Tomas and Andrea Bahena, who married in 1981, had maintained a cordial relationship since their 1995 divorce. He often helped with household chores, took the younger ones to school and watched the children when his ex-wife was ill.
Though he lived with his girlfriend in River Forest, Tomas stayed at the family home for a month this past winter when Andrea was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism.
“We worked very hard to have a good relationship,” Andrea says. “We worked at it very hard for the kids’ sake.”
Their divorce settlement granted Tomas visitation rights every Sunday afternoon, but Andrea allowed him to spend time with the kids whenever he
wanted. Police officers and social workers who knew the Bahenas considered him to be a stabilizing figure in the often troubled family.
Andrea, however, contends her ex-husband was wrestling with his own demons. A doctor put him on medication for schizophrenia a few months ago, but Andrea says she told him to go back and get a different prescription.
About five weeks ago, she says, the doctor placed him on Prozac and Trazodone, both popular anti-depressants. Andrea doesn’t know if he was on the drugs when he showed up at her house Monday night.
“He didn’t seem depressed,” she says. “There were no signs.”
Once Tomas settled onto the couch, Andrea and Nicky, Andrea’s 5-year-old son from a different relationship, went to her bedroom to watch a movie.
Jacqueline got ready for school the next day. Tomas turned on the news.
“There was no argument or fighting or anything like that,” Andrea says. “I’ve let him come and go as he pleases. I trusted him to be a loving father.”
A half hour later, the couple’s oldest daughter, Esther, 18, returned from shopping with her younger brother Christopher, 14.
The teen was not pleased to see her father, Andrea says. The relationship between the two had been icy in recent months, and Esther retreated to her
mother’s room to avoid a confrontation.
Christopher and Jacqueline, who both attended Glenside Middle School, went to sleep around midnight. Nicky was asleep in his mother’s bed by 1 a.m.
Andrea and Esther watched “The Long, Long Trailer” together while the teen did her laundry. The girl made herself a cup of tea at 2:30 a.m. and said
Believing everyone in her house – including Tomas – had fallen asleep, Andrea rewound the movie, shut off the lights and went to bed. She estimates she had
been asleep for 30 minutes when shots rang out in the house.
The first blast came from Jacqueline’s room, the one closest to the living room. Police say Tomas fired a bullet from his .22-caliber handgun into the
girl’s head around 5 a.m.
Tomas then continued down the hallway to Christopher’s room, and shot his son. The eighth-grade boy, who was protective of his younger siblings and
loved to make people laugh, died before paramedics arrived.
Jacqueline has been on life support at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, and her mother does not expect the girl to survive. However, a hospital spokesman
said Saturday the girl was upgraded to serious condition.
“I feel like she died at the house,” says Andrea, 44. “Chris and her were so close, they probably went up to heaven together.”
After shooting Christopher and Jacqueline, Andrea says, Tomas went into Esther’s room and fired a single bullet at her. The teen told authorities it
felt like someone had hit her in the head.  Esther cried out for her mother.  “Mommy, mommy I’ve been shot,” she yelled. “Help me.”
Esther chased her father into the living room where he shot her again, Andrea says. Glendale Heights police said they could not confirm the account while
the case is under investigation.
The second shot apparently did not incapacitate the teen, either. She grabbed some clothes and pressed them to her head to stop the bleeding. She then
watched in horror as her father put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.
Andrea entered the living room soon after with the cordless telephone in her hand. She stepped over a lifeless Tomas to reach Esther, who was crying that
her head hurt.
She says she called 911, but became too overwhelmed to answer the dispatcher’s questions about whether Tomas was still alive.
“You’ll never know the pain of stepping over your ex-husband’s dead body to go help your daughter,” she says.
Nicky, who is in pre-kindergarten, watched the bloodshed from the doorway of his mother’s bedroom. Though he wasn’t biologically Tomas’ son, Andrea says
her ex-husband loved the boy and provided child support for him.
“You always hear about deadbeat dads,” she says. “He was not a deadbeat dad.  He was a loving father. He cared about all the kids.”
Three days after the shootings, Andrea still wonders what her husband truly intended to do that night. He clearly had been making his way down the hall,
stopping at each bedroom he encountered.
If he hadn’t shot Esther twice, she believes he would have shot her, too.  “I am alive today because my room was at the end of the hall,” she says as
she starts to cry. “Why did he do this to me? Why did he take everything I loved away?”
Andrea has spent the majority of the past week with Jacqueline at Loyola Medical Center. The girl had undergone several surgeries but had shown no
signs of life. Her mother already talked about her in the past tense.
“She had a bubbly personality,” Andreas told a reporter. “You should tell everybody she was going to be in the ‘Oliver Twist’ musical at school. You
should tell them she won a contest for the best DARE poster and she got to walk in the parade.”
After three days of tragedy and media scrutiny, Andrea Bahena looked tired. A series of health problems have complicated her breathing and forced her to
use a wheelchair to get around. She had slept just a few hours since the killings and had been home only once to grab some clothes.
She says she has sent Nicholas to live with a family friend to prevent the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from taking him away. Her
oldest son, 17-year-old Antonio, recently was released from a juvenile detention center and is living in a foster home.
Andrea visited Esther for the first time since the shootings on Thursday night at Glen Oaks Medical Center in Glendale Heights. She would have liked
to have seen her daughter earlier, Andrea says, but she needed to be with Jacqueline who is in more critical condition. A hospital spokeswoman says
Esther remained in serious but stable condition Saturday.
Andrea also must contend with Christopher’s funeral. Though she says the arrangements have been taken care of, the boy’s body was still at the DuPage
County coroner’s office Saturday.
Rest, it seems, will not come anytime soon.  “I am tired,” she says. “But I can’t close my eyes. It’s too hard.”