911 dispatcher and USF alum, Samantha Harer, was reported dead on February 13, nearly 8 weeks ago. Since then, friends and family of Harer have gotten no closer to answers or closure about the 23-year-old’s death.
At about 8:15 a.m. on February 13, Harer’s live-in boyfriend, “Troubled” Crest Hill Police Officer Phil Flores, called 911 and reported that Samantha had shot herself inside her Channahon apartment on Bridge Street.
After the death, Chief Casey and Channahon Police Detective Andrew McClelland met with Samantha Harer’s parents, Kevin and Heather Harer. The parents were told that the cause of death was a single, self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Heather Harer told The Patch, “They said based on the 911 call and the text messages between Samantha and Phil, they had determined that her death was a suicide. It was Chief Casey who said that. It's burned into my brain.”
However, after Coroner Patrick O'Neil performed Samantha’s autopsy, he concluded that there may be something more suspicious at play than a suicide. Heather said an employee of the coroner's office told her, "I'm relating my findings to the police department that this may be a suspicious death."
Since then, nearly 8 weeks ago, there have still been no answers.
Many people who knew Samantha are still waiting for closure and, if necessary, justice for her death. Most onlookers seem to suspect Samantha’s boyfriend, Flores. Even Samantha’s parents seem to be suspicious of Flores, who had a troubled past, to say the least. The family suspects that Flores shot Samantha several hours earlier than when the call was made before he staged the scene to look like a suicide.
There was no suicide note found at the apartment when police arrived, and Samantha’s parents commented that the make and model of the gun used was never provided to them. While Samantha did own a gun, a small 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield with a complicated safety lock, Flores allegedly owned several guns of his own and had bought another just a few days prior.
Harer’s parents were also fairly certain that Samantha knew little or nothing about Flores’ complicated past. Flores is 33-years-old, 10 years Samantha’s senior, and was recently divorced. Though no charges were pressed, Flores had been accused of committing a violent rape in Crest Hill just last year.
"She was only 23 but not a lot of dating experience," her mother said. "I think she thought that he cared about her ... My daughter is no dummy, but she would have run for the hills if she would have known that he was accused of something as heinous as a rape."
During a vacation that Harer and Flores took to Arizona in September, Samantha’s parents caught a glimpse of what appeared to be an abusive, or at least manipulative, relationship between the couple. Harer’s parents received a call that their daughter had locked herself in the bathroom of their shared condo and wanted to get a one-way flight home immediately. Shortly after the conversation, Samantha reassured her parents that everything was fine and that she would finish out the vacation.
"I got the impression that he was being manipulative, and he had scared her and demeaned her. My daughter was crying when she told me this," her mother said. "I do not believe that my daughter killed herself. My baby would never hurt herself. No. She had way too much self-confidence and determination."
Her parents obviously suspect Flores, and from the view of an outsider, it sure seems that he may be guilty. The case hasn’t been conclusively proven to be a suicide. The fact that the rape allegations never became a criminal charge makes it look like Flores is being protected by the police force. The fact that this case is taking so long and that no new evidence or explanations have been put forward is ridiculous. It’s honestly insulting to those who cared for Harer.
This is a call for explanation.
This is a call for justice.