Police in Illinois recently charged a suspect in the 1994 cold case killing of 71-year-old Illa Venard, PEOPLE confirms.
According to a statement from authorities in DuPage County, murder charges were filed this week against Thomas Spear, 43, of Peoria, Illinois.
In the statement, detectives alleged Spear, who is being held on $3 million bail, murdered Venard after entering her apartment in Lisle through an unlocked sliding glass door. The woman’s body was found several days later.
The arrest comes more than a year after police renewed their efforts to solve Venard’s killing.
Police allege that Spear, who is additionally charged with four counts each of forgery and issuing or delivering a forged document, “grabbed the victim by the neck” in late July of 1994, “and forcibly pushed her down,” according to the statement.
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The klling happened two years after Venard’s husband died.
“It is further alleged that Spear then burglarized the apartment and took property of Venard’s including her checkbook along with her personal identification,” the statement continues. “It is further alleged that on several occasions, Spear disguised himself as an elderly woman, forged Venard’s signature and cashed four checks from her account.”
Spear was 20 at the time of the killing.
He was initially arrested in late September and charged with the forgery offenses, but has not entered pleas. The murder charge was formalized on Monday.
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“More than two decades have passed since Illa Venard was found deceased in her home,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin stated. “Her loved ones have waited a long time to find out what happened that horrible day. It is my sincerest hope that with today’s charges those who loved Illa Venard may begin to feel some measure of closure knowing that the man allegedly responsible for her death has been charged. I would like to express my thanks to the Lisle Police Department for their work on this case.”
Spear has not pleaded to the murder charge yet. He is scheduled to go before an arraignment judge on November 6. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for life.
“It’s good to know there is some kind of justice out there,” the victim’s son, Keith Venard, told The Chicago Tribune.