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Dibenedetto v. Dibenedetto

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 12, 2019

NANCY DIBENEDETTO, Petitioner-Appellee,
ROBERT DIBENEDETTO, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 18-OP-1113 Honorable David Garcia, Judge, Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Fred A. Joshua, of Fred A. Joshua P.C., of Hickory Hills, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Mona Elgindy and Andrea DeTellis, of Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., of Joliet, for appellee.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and O'Brien concurred with the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Petitioner, Nancy Dibenedetto, filed a verified petition for a plenary order of protection against respondent, Robert Dibenedetto, her husband. In the petition, Nancy alleged a history of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that spanned decades but recently increased in frequency and severity. Following a hearing on the petition, the court granted Nancy's petition. It made several findings as to the credibility of witnesses. The court, in its written order, indicated the abuse was likely to continue in the absence of an order of protection. Robert appeals, arguing the court did not conform its written or oral decision to the statutory requirements necessary to issue an order of protection. Further, Robert asserts the court's findings concerning the alleged abuse were against the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. FACTS

         ¶ 3 The parties have been married for over 45 years. On May 24, 2018, Nancy filed a verified petition for an order of protection against Robert. The petition also requested that the court issue an emergency order of protection. Nancy alleged that Robert verbally abused her, insulted her daily, routinely humiliated her in public, tracked her movements, threatened to kill her, frequented her place of work to cause problems, and physically abused her in the past. The circuit court denied Nancy's motion for an emergency order of protection.

         ¶ 4 On May 30, 2018, Nancy filed an emergency motion to rehear her order of protection. In her emergency motion, Nancy alleged Robert placed a global positioning system (GPS) device in her vehicle, sent text messages indicating his knowledge of her location, visited her place of work despite the fact that her employer banned him from entering her workplace, persistently called her, and went to all of their children's houses looking for her. Nancy was in fear for her life due to Robert's past threats to kill her should she ever leave him. Nancy knew Robert had access to firearms. She believed her safety was threatened, particularly at work. On June 6, 2018, the circuit court entered an emergency order of protection that ordered Robert to stay away from Nancy and cease further acts or threats of abuse.

         ¶ 5 The court heard arguments on Nancy's petition for a plenary order of protection in November 2018. Nancy testified that she suffered emotional, physical, and verbal abuse from Robert for the duration of their marriage; Robert's abuse recently increased. In May 2018, the parties' youngest child told Nancy she would be moving out to go to college. Nancy decided she was finally going to leave Robert because she felt her obligations to her children lessened. Robert would check her calendar to determine her work hours and ensure Nancy was home when she was not working. Due to his heightened awareness of her location, Nancy entered a women's shelter in May 2018.

         ¶ 6 Nancy detailed Robert's history of abuse back to 1979, when he sent her to the emergency room after breaking her eye socket her for coming home late. Robert repeatedly removed the engine coil wire from Nancy's vehicle to prevent her from going anywhere. Nancy filed for divorce and an order of protection in 1999. The court granted Nancy's petition for an order of protection. Robert told Nancy he would attend marriage counseling. Nancy withdrew her petitions. After Robert and Nancy reconciled, Robert told Nancy she was lucky she decided to take him back because he was ready to "blow 'em away." Robert followed Nancy to monitor where she went and with whom. Nancy described Robert's practice of going to the grocery store with her, verbally insulting her in front of the other customers, and refusing to pay for the groceries unless she complied.

         ¶ 7 In February 2018, Robert's alleged abuse escalated. Nancy attended college classes; she began separating herself from Robert as a result. Robert threatened her, saying, "[i]f you think you're leaving, I'll kill ya." Robert made these types of threats three to four times a month. In April 2018, Robert came to Nancy's workplace. He brought the spare set of keys to Nancy's vehicle and dangled them in front of her. He told her he was going to take the car to have work done. Nancy believed Robert was threatening her, taking her car away as punishment. Robert never fixed the vehicle. Regarding the GPS device Nancy found in her car in May 2018, Robert sent her a text message that read, "GPS is real nice. Why are you doing this? When are you coming home? Where the heck are you?" After Nancy filed her petition for an order of protection, Robert persistently called and messaged Nancy. He continued to show up at her workplace looking for her. Nancy believed her safety was at risk without the order of protection.

         ¶ 8 Tina Ogrondik, the parties' child, also testified. She witnessed Robert physically abuse Nancy at least five times that she could recall. Tina supported Nancy's testimony that Robert used Nancy's vehicle to exert power over her. If Nancy did not act to Robert's liking, he would take away her vehicle. Tina believed Robert wanted to discover Nancy's location after the court granted her an emergency order of protection in June 2018. Robert came over three to four times a day looking for Nancy. He did the same with his other children. Days before the hearing, Robert told Tina that there was still hope for his relationship with Nancy; he would not give up.

         ¶ 9 Finally, Robert took the stand. Since Nancy initiated these proceedings, he filed for divorce. Robert either outright denied all of Nancy's allegations ...

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