By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
---- — FULTON, Ill. — Teresa Decker, 44, of Fulton, speaks for victims in Clinton County.
Originally from Fulton, Teresa has worked as a paralegal for the County Attorney's Office since 1999. For more than six years, she also has served as the victim witness coordinator for the county.
Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, she meets with all the witnesses and victims for a case, setting up the depositions. She informs them of their various rights under the law and helps set up restitution or mental-health counseling. She said many victims are unaware they can apply for crime victim's compensation through the state for medical expenses. This is available even if no one has been charged in their case. Victims can also register with the office to keep informed on the case.
Some days, the cases can be overwhelming for Teresa. She said it is difficult when someone has lost a loved one and is emotionally upset. She tries to comfort them. However, Teresa said she has met some really strong victims who keep going despite what they have experienced.
"They inspire me to keep doing what I need to do; to help others," Teresa said.
Some of the toughest cases for Teresa are those involving children and animals. Theresa and her husband of 17 years, Keith have two children and three dogs. She is active at the Clinton Humane Society and has a passion to help abused and unwanted animals. She often has a foster dog in her house as well.
In her role as a paralegal, Decker handles all of the discovery for the criminal cases, as well as the seizure and forfeiture paperwork. Her skills are used in any of the larger class A and B felony cases that require a lot of organization for their files. Teresa also handles the orders for drug disposal and destruction of evidence, such as guns.
Teresa said the discovery duties are a huge responsibility.
"Because if there's even one document that is unaccounted for, it could lead to a mistrial," Teresa said.
County Attorney Mike Wolf said Teresa is a joy to work with. He added that she really cares for every victim. Teresa encourages victims to contact the office and talk to her. She is happy to help them.