Timothy Hayden was the poster boy for a lot of what was wrong with the justice system, so the fact that he is now out of prison is unsettling to some and enraging to others.
Hayden was charged 55 times, mainly during the 1980s. He racked up one felony, 29 misdemeanors and 25 traffic charges, including six DUIs. All that, and he spent only 23 days in the St. Clair County Jail.
There was also the mysterious death of Linda Tofpi, a 30-year-old mom whose neck was severely slashed by broken glass June 4, 1981, before she fell over the high railing of Hayden’s apartment balcony. Police and the coroner closed the case within hours, even though their explanation of how she died seem to defy physics.
“White privilege” one Facebook commenter deduced. Something like that, a former prosecutor said in 1990.
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“It’s not atypical with these types of offenses and a middle-class background to avoid jail time,” said former prosecutor Clyde Kuehn. Hayden’s dad was a prominent local contractor and part of west Belleville’s gentry.
Hayden twice battered his wife and got away with it. Theresa “Tracy” Hayden finally left him and took the kids on May 31, 1990. He swore to kill anyone who broke up his family.
She got an order of protection. He violated it at least twice.
Then she went out with a dozen girlfriends to a west Belleville bar. They agreed to leave if Tim Hayden showed up.
“Tracy was the happiest I’d ever seen her because she was finally getting her life back in order,” her close friend said.
Only Tracy Hayden and a few friends were still at the bar when Tim Hayden came in at 1:15 a.m., July 27, 1990. He stabbed her repeatedly with a kitchen knife before her friends, other patrons or bar staff could stop him.
Her beatings, the uselessness of her orders of protection and finally her murder by her estranged husband made her the inspiration for the legal system to do better. The Tracy Fogarty Domestic Violence Unit in Belleville concentrates resources for dealing with domestic abuse. Her maiden name was used, honoring a life not yet marred by Tim Hayden.
Hayden was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to 55 years. He served half of that sentence, but fought responsibility for killing his wife through three appeals.
Illinois did not pass a Truth in Sentencing law until 1995, which now keeps a murderer in prison for 85 percent of his sentence.
Hayden was paroled to District 4, which has its main office in East St. Louis. He is out there, with his debt to society paid.
At least paid in 1991 terms, before we expected “truth” in sentencing. Had Illinois adopted the law sooner, Tim Hayden would not have been released at age 58, but rather at age 77.