Amber Alert issued for her children, who were found safe with their father
Foul play is suspected in the death of MeLisa Cleary, whose body was found Monday near Hartsburg. The Mackinaw mother of three had been missing since Friday. On Monday, railroad workers in Logan County found a woman’s body which had suffered severe trauma. The body was identified as that of Cleary. Stewart Umholtz, the Tazewell County state’s attorney, said there is at least one suspect in the case but no one has been arrested. Meanwhile, an Amber Alert was issued for the woman’s three children Tuesday morning, but they were found safe shortly before 2:30 a.m. at the Super 8 motel in Peoria with their father, Daniel Cleary, and a woman who has not been identified. Authorities had been looking for Daniel Cleary since Monday afternoon to speak with him. Umholtz would not say whether Daniel Cleary was questioned by authorities after he was found, but said he was not in custody Tuesday. It would not be unusual to question the husband, Umholtz said. "Certainly in any death of a married person the spouse would be questioned," he said. The children, ages 12, 8 and 3, were voluntarily placed with a relative "where they will be safe," Umholtz said. MeLisa Cleary, 30, was reported missing Friday afternoon after her friends and family could not reach her by phone. The Clearys’ house was blocked off with police tape Tuesday afternoon and the Illinois State Police were monitoring the premises. Betty Christian, 70, of Mackinaw said she routinely baby-sits her three grandsons in the house next to the Cleary residence. There were frequently several children playing in the family’s backyard, she said, and her grandchildren often went next door to join in. They visited as recently as 4:30 p.m. Friday, about the time MeLisa Cleary went missing, Christian said. "They were an all-American family, working hard to get by," she said. As she glanced at the Cleary house Tuesday, Christian said the disappearance of the neighbor had been unsettling. "You don’t expect crime tape next door," she said. The situation had also stuck a chord of discomfort with Larry Patterson, another of the Clearys’ neighbors. Patterson, 71, said he rarely saw Daniel Cleary or MeLisa Cleary, but their children were often around the neighborhood. "It’s very depressing," he said. "I feel bad for the kids." Joe Crawford can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or email@example.com.