SYCAMORE – Andrew Morris spent 20 minutes chatting on the phone with his girlfriend, Stacia F. Hollinshead around 2 p.m. Saturday, while she drove her five-year-old daughter to visit grandparents in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Twenty minutes later, Hollinshead was shot to death. Police say her ex-husband, Ulisses W. Medina Espinosa, 31, of Beaver Dam, pulled the trigger. Morris said he's devastated.
They'd been dating for more than a year, he said.
"... I just have so much bitterness and anger right now," Morris, 36, of DeKalb, said. "I was at the happiest I'd ever been in my life, and that's when I lose her."
Hollinshead, 30, of the 1800 block of Raintree Court in Sycamore, was a newly minted lawyer, an Army veteran and a Northern Illinois University law school graduate who had been hired as a DeKalb County assistant state's attorney in November. Her divorce from her husband, the father of her child, had become final in March of 2018, but the two-year separation process included her receiving orders of protection against him for erratic and harassing behavior, and a fight over visitation rights, according to DeKalb County court records.
Medina Espinosa had lost visitation rights, but both parents had agreed it was important their 5-year-old daughter have both parents in her life. So on March 15, Medina Espinosa's right to visit with his daugther was reinstated, provided Hollinshead supervised, court records show.
"More than anything, Stacia cared about her daughter and she wanted her to have continuity of life and a relationship with her grandparents," Morris said.
The arrangement had deadly consequences. Police say Medina Espinosa fatally shot his ex-wife in the kitchen of his parents' home on East Third Street in Beaver Dam, a town of about 17,000 northwest of Milwaukee. Police said she was pronounced dead at the scene.
"From what I've gleaned, her daughter was in the living room when it happened," Morris said.
Police took Medina Espinosa into custody without incident. No charges have been filed.
Claims of harassment
Hollinshead first asked a judge to order Medina Espinosa to keep away from her in August 2016, after filing for divorce in May 2016, court records show. Records show she cited a pattern of verbal and digital harassment from him, and requested his parental visitation rights with their daughter be limited.
In a statement to the judge, Hollinshead described an evening when she was out for a walk with a close friend and their children in DeKalb, and Medina Espinosa followed in his car, shouting at her from the road.
He did not relent when she declined to talk with him, records show, only driving away after police were called. Hollinshead told the court Espinosa later called her cell phone 26 times within a 20-minute window. At another point that evening, he called 13 times in 13 minutes. That night, Hollinshead stayed at the friend's house, and Espinosa called her 65 times in all.
"[Espinosa] is verbally and emotionally abusive to me," her statement read. "He frequently demands to call me on video-chat to talk to [our daughter] to verify our location."
A judge cited Espinosa's escalating behavior, and how he displayed mental instability, as reason for granting the order of protection, which expired June 11, 2018. He lost visitation rights two days later.
In September 2018, court records show Espinosa tried to get visitation rights back, alleging that the child had been sexually abused. Court records show Espinosa called DeKalb police the week of May 25, 2018, who advised him to take his daughter to the Child Advocacy Center in Woodstock. After interviewing the child, staff did not believe she had been sexually abused, records show. Espinosa wanted his daughter to have a physical exam, which they declined to perform, records show.
Later in the same week of May 2018, Hollinshead said DeKalb police called her to inform her of her daughter's interview, the allegations, and the fact that Espinosa wanted their daughter examined, which she declined to allow. The court denied his request and his visitation rights continued to be terminated.
When Medina Espinosa's visitation rights were reinstated, there were caveats: it had to be under Stacia's supervision, and Espinosa was required to begin counseling and take parenting classes.
"Both parties recognize the minor child needs to exercise parenting time with both parents," records read. "Both parents recognize the minor needs protection from the behavior that led to visitation rights being terminated."
Espinosa was also ordered not to discuss a number of things with his daughter, including the divorce, how and where she spends her time with her mother, court proceedings, if she's sat on anyone's lap, or getting his daughter a passport, taking her on a trip, or visiting Espinosa's family in Mexico.
Dedicated mother with a bright future
Hollinshead worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the DeKalb County Attorney's office, and Andrew Morris works for an attorney in St. Charles.
"Today is very surreal," said DeKalb County State's Attorney Rick Amato Monday, after releasing a statement on his colleague's death Sunday night. "The staff is doing as best as can be expected."
Mark Cordes, interim dean and professor of law at NIU's college of Law said his former student's death stunned the department.
"We at NIU law are stunned by this tragic and senseless loss of life," Cordes said in an email Sunday. "She was a very maturing and caring person, very engaged in her studies, and was an extremely dedicated and loving mother. Stacia had tremendous potential as a lawyer and a very bright future ahead of herself. She was the type of graduate that makes our school very proud."
Morris remembered her kind nature and concern for her child.
"One of the things that always struck me was her absolute dedication to her daughter," Morris said. "She was the most conscientious and careful mother, and she would do anything to add to her daughter's life. That was what drove all of her actions.
"She is, in many ways, kind of almost opposite extremes," Morris said. "She's passionate and she would fight for what she believed in, fiercely. At the same time, she was such a gentle soul. loving, and thoughtful."