Husband charged in RF murder

?Victim had court order of protection; OPRF grad was legal secretary

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A 41-year-old woman who had sworn out an order of protection against her estranged husband was beaten to death on a River Forest street, just 200 feet from the River Forest police station, last Wednesday evening.

Therese Pender was bludgeoned, likely with a hammer found at the scene. Her husband, James Pender, 53, of Harwood Heights, was arrested without incident by police shortly after the murder when officers reportedly found him walking along nearby railroad tracks. James Pender, who according to reports had been living recently in his car, was charged Friday with first degree murder. He was being held without bail. His first court date is Thursday at the Maybrook branch of the Cook County Circuit Court.

The murder took place near the intersection of Park Avenue and Lake Street just after 6 p.m., last Wednesday evening.

That night, River Forest police responded to a phone call at 6:17 p.m. reporting that a woman was being beaten in front of a townhome at 500 Park Ave.

Police Chief Nicholas Weiss said an officer immediately ran out of the police station, just across Lake Street on Park Avenue, and found the victim, whom he said was "non-responsive."

Additional River Forest squads and officers from Oak Park and Forest Park arrived quickly on the scene. Police began searching for the attacker, who a witness stated, had run northbound on Park Avenue.

Therese Pender was taken to Loyola University Medical Center, in Maywood, where she was pronounced dead at 7:13 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

An autopsy has been performed.

According to River Forest police, Therese Pender had been living with friends for the past two months in an effort to avoid contact with her husband, James, whom she was in the process of divorcing.

Ms. Pender filed for divorce in the Cook County Circuit Court on Dec. 17, 2004. They were married in 2002.

First reported March 17 on

Ten days later, James Pender applied to the court to be represented as an indigent person. On Jan. 17, Therese Pender filed for the first of at least two court orders of protection, which were granted.

According to Weiss, Therese Pender had contacted his department and informed them that she had a court order against her husband, and requested a special watch on the house where she was staying.

Therese Pender, whose maiden name is Acheson, was a 1981 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School where she was a member of the school's Symphonic Orchestra. She reportedly lived in Oak Park until moving in with friends two months ago. She worked as a legal secretary in a Chicago law office.

Published reports said that in January railroad police had stopped James Pender for stalking after he was noticed allegedly following Therese Pender through the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago. While he was questioned by railroad police officers and it was determined that an order of protection had been issued against him, he was released with a warning.

The murder is the first homicide in River Forest since June 1998, when an Oak Park dentist, Dr. Charles W. Smith III killed his wife. Smith, now 61, is currently at Stateville Penitentiary, and is not eligible for parole until 2028, when he will be 84.

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