“A woman showed up to Mom’s house. She would not leave when ask. I pushed her down and she died about 5 months later.”
Why is he seeking clemency?
“1. My son Michael needs a father
“2. I owe the lady’s husband $17,000,000 from a law suit. So I need to start paying him
“3. COVID 19
“4. My family needs me for the farm”
In handwritten notes to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, obtained by Sauk Valley Media in a Freedom of Information Act request, Andrew “AJ” Sucher is asking the governor of Illinois to either reduce the sentence imposed for beating Sterling DCFS worker Pam Knight so grievously that she languished for 132 days before dying of her head injuries, or to pardon him outright.
The 28-year-old has served about 20 days less than 3 years; his sentence for Knight’s murder, which came as a result of a plea agreement, is 21 years without parole.
For the record, Sucher didn’t simply push Knight down. He pushed the petite 59-year-old backward so hard that her head slammed on the concrete driveway. He kicked her in the head three times, then stomped on it.
He was in a rage. He had been charged with physically abusing a 6-year-old, and Knight came to his parents’ home in Milledgeville that day to take Michael, then 2, into protective custody.
With the 649 days served after his Sept. 29, 2017 arrest and the 659 days served since his sentencing on July 10, 2019, he’s been in prison 1,309 days, most lately at Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg.
He has 18 years to go to make good on the bargain he made with the state. It allows him to leave prison on Sept. 29, 2038, at the age of 46.
He could have gotten 60 years, and left prison a very old man, if at all.
In 18 years, his son will be about 23.
He owes Don Knight, Pam’s widower, $15,825,360.43 from a wrongful death suit Knight filed Aug. 8, 2019, in Carroll County Court, and won by default judgment on Feb. 28, 2020, when Sucher failed to respond properly to the complaint.
In his bid for clemency, filed nearly a year ago, on June 29, Sucher includes information on his other criminal convictions, charges that were dropped as part of other plea agreements, and background on his life up to the murder.
Of his son, now 5, Sucher writes “We have a great relationship. I miss him so much. Its really a bummer not being out there to be his father and to show him the right way to live.
“I know I have murder charge but I didn’t mean to hurt our kill the lady. I feel horrible for what I did.”
He talks about growing up in the country, hunting and fishing, and of his hobbies “fish, hunting, weight lifting, and walking.”
“I’m a easy going guy who is friendly and kind … I guess I’m just a simple man. If I got out today I would do the same stuff I did before I got locked up but I will never touch anyone again in a violent way.”
Knight and his daughter, Jennifer Hollenback, recently learned of Sucher’s efforts from their Carroll County victim advocate.
Knight, who has been advocating for safety reforms in the Department of Children and Family Services, and for laws stiffening the punishment for people who attack DCFS workers, is beyond upset.
“I don’t want this guy out,” Knight said this morning. “He has no remorse for what he did at all. He has never once apologized to the family, even after admitting what he did.
“If the governor signs this, there will be a Don Knight ----storm at his office or in front of his office ... I will raise holy hell.”
“There’s going to be hell to pay, and I mean hell.”
With the help of Hollenback’s friend Kimberly Tipsord, they are asking people to sign a letter on Tipsord’s Facebook page that will be sent to the review board, asking that it recommend clemency be denied.
It was posted April 2 with the hope of getting 10,000 signatures; as of Wednesday, more than 7,600 have signed.
Aaron Kaney now is Carroll County state’s attorney; he was appointed after Scott Brinkmeier was named a 15th Circuit associate judge. Although he did not prosecute the Sucher case, Kaney sent a letter to the review board strongly opposing clemency, he said this afternoon.
In addition, Sauk Valley GOP state Reps. Tony McCombie, Tom Demmer and five other legislators sent a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker, also asking him to deny Sucher clemency.
The letter, also sent to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, was initiated by McCombie, R-Savanna, and was signed by Demmer, R-Dixon, Reps. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, and Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, and Sens. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, and Brian Stewart, R-Freeport.
“As elected officials, it is our number one duty to protect our citizens and our most vulnerable,” the letter starts.
“On behalf of the family and over 4,500 constituents, we are asking you to disregard and deny this request. Pam’s memory, the children she protected, and her legacy deserves our support,” it concludes.
The Prisoner Review Board (www2.illinois.gov/sites/prb) makes sure a petitioner’s paperwork is filed properly, asks the petitioner for more information if needed, holds quarterly hearings, and then makes confidential recommendations to the governor as to whether relief should be granted.
The governor has no deadline to respond to the petition. When a decision is made, the board notifies the petitioner.
Quarterly hearings were canceled twice because of COVID-19; according to the Prisoner Review Board website, the next hearings are July 13-15 in Springfield.
Although he admits it seems unlikely Sucher will prevail, the fact that he can apply for clemency every year until he is released, one way or another, also infuriates Knight.
“What is sad about this is we’re trying o get this all behind us, so we could get on with our lives and get some closure,” he said.
“We shouldn’t have to go through this all the time. We shouldn’t have to go through this every year. It’s really causing a lot of problems for the family.”