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The Springfield State Journal-Register (IL)
October 30, 1997
Author: JEFFERSON ROBBINS STAFF WRITER
ROBY — While her brother expressed fear Wednesday that she’ll never leave her home without force, Shirley Allen reportedly muttered about suicide. State police said Allen began a period of furious activity in her kitchen shortly after noon, and could be heard moving items while she talked angrily about killing herself.
She also has not activated the breaker switch that police say would restore her power. McDonald said police do not know where that switch is inside the house.
At a press conference Wednesday, Allen’s brother Byron Dugger, 49, said he has little hope that she could be convinced to leave the house on her own. So far, relatives’ appeals and chatter from negotiators have failed to end the 38-day standoff.
“I don’t think that we’ll talk her out of there,” Dugger said. “I think we’re going to have to go in and get her. How we’ll do that, I don’t have any idea.”
McDonald said despite Dugger’s comment, state police haven’t outlined a strategy to storm Allen’s house.
“I can only say that we certainly don’t have any plan at this time of doing that,” he said. “We’ve had to keep a lot of options open in this.”
Dugger is the youngest of 11 children, Allen the next youngest. He and his siblings sought a court order to have Allen screened for mental illness after noticing what they called paranoid, depressive behavor. That order was issued Sept. 22, and police have been unable to get Allen out of her home ever since.
Dugger said the bizarre behavior followed years of on-and-off depression that seemed to begin after Allen’s husband, John Allen, died in 1989. He reiterated Wednesday that his family has nothing to gain financially from Allen’s plight.
“I know what her will says. Her property, all her assets, go to her step-grandchildren, John Allen’s grandchildren. My family, her brothers and sisters, has nothing to gain by anything. I don’t know how that (rumor) got started, but her assets and her will are etched in stone.”
Dugger said Allen has gone through an erratic pattern of depression and recovery in the last eight years. She sought out treatment for depression, and continued treatment and medication sporadically. State police have said that Allen once held a prescription for Prozac, an antidepressant drug.
But the depression was marked by occasional bouts of paranoia, Dugger said. At times, he said, she would tell him that her stepchildren were out to seize the property John left to her. In conversation with her stepchildren, however, she would share similar suspicions about her blood relatives.
“Shirley’s paranoia has created a lot of those stories,” Dugger said, “but there’s no truth to them.”
She appeared to recover well in 1993-1994, when she set out to build a house in central Illinois for her mother, now 86. She paid for the land and construction from her own assets, Dugger said, and he assisted with plans and contractors.
While the family worked together on the house, Allen appeared in high spirits — but her ghosts returned soon after it was completed.
“She made the comment to me one day that `They’ll probably take this away from me, too.’ ” Dugger said. “. . . She never would mention names. All she would refer to is `they.’ ” Alarming letters to her mother followed. One of those, made public by state police, claimed that unnamed enemies “zapped my head with radar.” Her mother and siblings attempted to visit over Labor Day, but Allen allegedly refused to let them in, claiming that her mother was an impostor.
Dugger said he believes Allen still has plenty of food in cans, and he supports the police tactics used in attempts to bring Allen out of the house — including the introduction of pepper spray and a police dog Sunday.
“If it takes something like that to save her life, I agree to do that,” he said. “If she did get dog-bit, dog bites will heal. It may sound inhumane, but we’re talking about a girl that’s very sick.”
Police have been advised during the standoff by Allen’s former psychiatrist, an independent psychiatrist, Allen’s medical doctor and a handful of other non-psychiatric mental health professionals, McDonald said. It was on the advice of consultants that police spoke to Allen by megaphone, he said.
In other news from the standoff Wednesday: o Allen’s agitation caused state police to postpone plans to place an electronic signboard near the road facing Allen’s house.
“We thought mixing any other ingredient into that wouldn’t be helpful,” McDonald said.
The sign, borrowed from the Illinois Department of Transportation and powered by a diesel generator, was programmed to flash a message from her mother, McDonald said: “Shirley, we care about you. I need your help. Mom.”
The sign may be put in place today. It will be replaced later by a solar-powered signboard, which can be programmed by telephone. o A handful of prayer vigils sprang up Wednesday in support of Allen.
The Coree Indian Nation of Springfield had scheduled a vigil at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday on the Statehouse lawn, while the Illinois Conference of Churches announced an interfaith prayer service Sunday at 2 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church. o The Rev. Larry Rice, a St. Louis-based activist for the poor and homeless, held a small prayer vigil outside state police headquarters and said he still wants to visit Allen in her home.
Rice was refused access to the house in a meeting with State Police Director Terrance Gainer Tuesday.
Rice, who planned to return to Missouri Wednesday night but said he would monitor the situation while he continues a fast in support of Allen, said he has no qualms about confronting an armed woman in friendship.
“You don’t think about that part,” said Rice, whose community projects include coaxing the homeless into shelters during cold weather. “You think about that person who’s hurting.”