Sydney Schergen

Age: 18 | State: | County: Cook | Case Status: Conviction

On May 31st, 2015, I received the most horrific call.  My 18-year-old daughter Sydney was not breathing, and all life-saving measures had been exhausted.  The medical examiner’s office classifying Sydney’s death as an accidental overdose.  She had ingested a lethal dose of MDMA. The Chicago Police Department closing her case immediately classifying it as non-criminal.   

As a veteran Chicago Police officer & Sydney’s mother, 

I refused to accept that a person can unlawfully deliver a controlled substance to my child, and she die, and they walk away with zero accountability.  The Chicago Police Department continued to share that Sydney made a choice, but I continued to respond that she never made a choice to die!  They further shared that the Chicago Police Department did not have a policy to investigate these cases criminally.  I shared with the detectives the 1989 Illinois Drug Induced Homicide statute which is defined as the unlawful delivery of a controlled substance resulting in a death.  I pleaded that a new policy was implemented, and that Sydney’s case be the 1st case investigated criminally.  

Still, detectives continued to dismiss my pleas for justice.  I was crushed.  My daughter is dead in the city in which I have dedicated my life to and my family in blue will not even question the persons that I knew were responsible for her homicide!  Chicago Police stating that the dealers would never admit to selling Sydney a lethal dose of MDMA.  

I replied, can’t we just try?  Again, I was dismissed.

I thought to myself how in God’s name could any family get any measure of justice if I could not?  

At the time, I was a 22-year veteran of the Chicago Police department assigned to organized crime, versed in the law & had substantial evidence leading to the source of the unlawful delivery but still her case remained closed.

I was forbidden by the Chicago Police department to speak with the media citing it would compromise her case.  

What case I said?  

In that moment, I knew that I had to initiate positive change. 

I started the nonprofit Drug Induced Homicide foundation, educated myself as to the criminal statute, networked with bereaved families nationwide, shared my loss publicly, met with police departments & prosecutors successfully prosecuting these cases criminally, rallied with families outside the police stations, the medical examiner’s office, courthouses, media stations, city hall and busy intersections to demand a shift in thinking by law enforcement officers and prosecutors, away from past protocols focusing on accidental to now classifying these cases as criminal and treating every suspected drug toxicity death as a homicide.  

On September 24th, 2016, after 16 months of pleading for justice my prayers were finally answered.  Chicago Police detectives brought in Brent Tyssen & Cynthia Parker for questioning.  Both admitted to selling my daughter Sydney who they referred to as an “inexperienced user” a lethal dose of MDMA.  Both were charged with Drug Induced Homicide and released shortly thereafter while awaiting trial.  While out on bond, both Tyssen & Parker were charged with selling 110 hits of LSD and 1 gram of MDMA to an undercover Orland Park officer and taken into custody.

In 2018, I am pleased to share that Brent Tyssen & Cynthia Parker were convicted of my daughter’s homicide.  

Locking up a drug dealer will not bring my daughter Sydney back, but I am confident that our efforts will save the lives of others. I am confident that pursuing the persons within the chain of delivery sends a clear and unmistakable message to drug dealers that anyone profiting from the misery and suffering of an unlawful sale of a controlled substance that results in a death will be held criminally liable.  

It is not my intention to speak poorly of our judicial system but rather support them in our advocacy to rid our streets of illicit drugs & the people that peddle them.

In my 7 years of speaking with families, law enforcement & prosecutors, I feel strongly that the cellular phones are often the key to identifying the source of the unlawful delivery.  Examining public & private domain, file storage, web pages & other cloud content.  Whether it was digitally extracting evidence from a phone, a tablet, or a laptop, running DNA and or prints, checking banking apps, ATM visits, GPS coordinates, tollway records, recovering narcotics & paraphernalia on scene, retrieving video surveillance, collecting statements of witnesses and potential suspects, buy busts & confidential informants.  I promise you the evidence is there.

Today, I am incredibly proud to share that the Chicago Police department has implemented the Drug Induced Homicide special order outlining the procedures of investigative responsibilities related to suspected drug toxicity deaths.  

In 2021 & 2022, I have been invited to the Chicago Police academy to address detectives on this policy.

In closing, I’d like to share my favorite quote,

“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”


Terry Almanza

Sydney’s Mom

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