Boy's death moves Russians here; Community joins in bid to adopt girl who lived with slain child

Date: 2003-12-23

Chicago Sun-Times
Author: Lucio Guerrero Dan Rozek

The calls came pouring into the state's Department of Children and Family Services on Monday from families looking to adopt a Russian youngster whose mother is being charged with killing her 6-year-old brother.

"It's just one of those stories that has touched the hearts of people all over the area," said Jill Manuel, spokeswoman for the Chicago DCFS office. "It is such a heartbreaking story."

Police said the mother, Irma Pavlis, shook, struck and beat Alex M. Pavlis to death Thursday, only a month after adopting the boy and girl from Russia.

Bail for Pavlis was set at $3 million Monday during a brief court appearance before Cook County Judge Karen Thompson-Tobin in Rolling Meadows.

Prosecutors offered little new information about the child's death and didn't offer a motive for the beating allegedly by Pavlis, 32. Nor did they disclose any details of the recent adoption, said Tom Stanton, a spokesman for Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.

Authorities began investigating after Pavlis made a 911 call Thursday to report her adopted son wasn't breathing. The boy was taken to the Alexian Brothers Medical Center, then airlifted to the Loyola University Medical Center, where he died the next day.

An autopsy showed the child had been beaten to death, Stanton said. Pavlis was taken into custody Saturday and charged Sunday with first-degree murder.

Pavlis' husband has not been charged in the case, Stanton said. A 5-year-old girl also adopted by the couple from the same Russian town as Alex was taken into custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Pavlis and her husband lived in a second-floor, two-bedroom condo at the Savannah Trace condominiums in Schaumburg.

Not surprisingly, many of the calls that came into the DCFS office were from Russian Americans in the Chicago area. That community, mostly on the city's North Side and in Skokie, has grown considerably in the last 20 years. It is now close to one of the largest immigrant communities in the city.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, about 102,900 people in Cook County identified themselves as Russian or Ukrainian.

News of the Russian orphan went out throughout the local Russian community.

"We've been reporting it all day on our newscasts," said Ellen Ostrov, manager of Northbrook-based New Life Russian Radio, which carries Russian-language programming in Chicago. "It is something that we have been talking about in the news."

Manuel said they are hoping that someone from the Chicago area's large Russian community come forward to help rear the girl

The Pavlises were not Russian and had tried to learn to speak the language before adopting the children, according to Manuel and others who knew the couple.

"What we are doing is looking for a home where Russian is spoken," Manuel said. "We want to find a home that will suit her needs. We want to find a place where she could communicate routinely in her language and not have to rely on a translator."

Russia has long been one of the leading countries in providing babies for U.S. families seeking adopted children. In 2002, almost 5,000 children were adopted to families in the United States. That is up considerably since 1992, when there were 324 Russian adoptions.

The average cost to adopt a Russian child is around $20,000.

DCFS spokeswoman Manuel said the couple had arranged the adoptions privately and did not use an agency. She said they did go to a private agency to obtain the home study that is required by state agencies and immigration authorities for international adoption.

Manuel said the home study revealed no criminal background for either parent and no connection with either child abuse or neglect.

Contributing: Ana Mendieta

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