Bourbonnais, Illinois – A manhunt for a deranged Bourbonnais man who had been stalking and harassing a woman for a year ended in a dramatic shootout at Perry Farm 34 years ago today.
Dee Eastman, the suspect, was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life plus 54 years in prison.
Jennifer Mesenbring had been a victim of Eastman’s obsession, which had escalated into throwing bricks and rocks through the windows of her Bourbonnais home and making numerous harassing phone calls. They had attended Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School nine years prior, but she did not know him personally. Jennifer would later signed a complaint, and Eastman would be arrested in April 1989.
About a month later, on May 5, 1989, Jennifer would be driving with a coworker when Eastman rammed his car into hers, then shot her three times in the chest, just three weeks away from her planned wedding.
The murder was witnessed by 16 horrified kindergarten, first, and second-grade students on the playground in front of Lafayette Primary Center, less than 25 feet away.
Eastman would flee the scene, stealing a pickup truck at gunpoint from a man on Kennedy Drive. Kankakee Police Sgt. Larry Osenga and Bradley Patrolman Steve LaFrance pursued Eastman at the time in separate squad cars at high speed to the Kankakee sewer treatment plant. Eastman later crashed through a fence and blew a tire, and a gun battle ensued in the Perry Farm.
Dozens of shots were exchanged, and Bradley Patrolman Jeff Hackley was shot in the left leg and abdomen. Eastman continued to run and was caught by Bourbonnais Sgt. Bill Stark and Manteno Police Chief Steve Cushman while trying to climb a retaining wall near Coyne and Bisaillon streets.
Both Hackley and Osenga were seriously wounded, but they recovered. Eastman faced trial in October 1989 and was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life plus 54 years on Jan. 29, 1990, by Judge Wayne Dyer.
The case shocked the community, particularly the young witnesses who saw the murder on their playground. The tragedy serves as a reminder of the importance of taking stalking and harassment seriously and seeking help from authorities.