Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in Miami: Stan and Joyce Cohen

Illinois Roots

This sort of opulence was new to Joyce.

She had been born poor in Carpentersville, Ill., a city of 30,000 at the northwest edge of Chicago's vast suburban halo, an hour's drive from the Loop.

Her father, Bonnie Lemay, was an American Indian, and her mother, Eileen Wojtanek, was of Polish extraction.

It was not a Currier-and-Ives childhood, according to a profile by Carol Soret Cope in her book about the Cohen murder, "In the Fast Lane."

Lemay beat his wife, and the couple had persistent financial problems, perhaps because both husband and wife had drinking problems and could not keep steady jobs.

Before Joyce reached school age, the family moved south so that Bonnie Lemay could find work as a sharecropper. But life got no sweeter for the family.

Tired of abuse, Eileen split, taking Joyce with her. For several years the woman bounced from one bad relationshipand bottleto another.

She spent time in orphanages, foster care and youth homes. Joyce would later say that she suffered sexual and physical abuse as a child.

In 1964, an aunt in Carpentersville was contacted by Illinois state authorities after Joyce, at age 13, had been booted from a foster family for stealing.

The aunt, Bea Wojtanek, took her in and raised her until age 17, when she married a local teenager, George McDillon.

They had a son, Shawn, nine months later.

George worked as a drywall installer, Joyce as a secretary. They bought a small house but struggled to make the mortgage paymentsin part because Joyce had expensive taste. (According to author Cope, she once spent $165the equivalent of roughly $1,000 in 2006on peacock feathers to decorate the living room.)

After five years of an up-and-down marriage, Joyce compelled her young husband to move the family to Florida to find a better life. He arranged to go to work as a drywaller in Coral Springs, north of Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

The McDillons moved there in 1973, but George returned to Carpentersville alone less than a year later.

His wife wanted more out of life than he was able to supply.

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice

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