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Body pulled from Fox in Elgin; 2nd in 2 months

A wooden cross is planted along Fox River near Festival Park Elgrememberance RoberHernandez whose body was pulled from river October.

A wooden cross is planted along the Fox River near Festival Park in Elgin in rememberance of Roberto Hernandez whose body was pulled from the river in October. Another body was pulled from the same area from the river Tuesday. November 27, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 29, 2012 6:20AM

ELGIN — The body of a homeless Elgin man was pulled from the Fox River on Tuesday, just seven weeks after another man’s body was found in almost the same spot.

Police identified the man as 51-year-old James Trausch, said Cmdr. Glenn Theriault.

A passerby on the bike trail noticed a red coat and the body in the water, then contacted security officers at the nearby Grand Victoria Casino. Casino personnel called police at 11:02 a.m., Theriault said.

The man’s body was found just a few feet from shore, and near where some of his belongings were found on the riverbank, Theriault said. The fire department’s water rescue team removed the body from the water, where he was identified by police officers who knew the man, Theriault added.

Trausch “is known to us as a chronically homeless individual” who has had recent contact with Elgin police, Theriault said.

“There were no signs of foul play at the scene, but we will continue to investigate as we do all death investigations,” he said.

According to court records, Trausch was arrested by Elgin police in June on misdemeanor counts of counts of aggravated assault to a police officer resisting or obstructing a police officer. He also was arrested at least twice last year in Elgin, on charges of trespassing at Gail Borden Public Library and resisting arrest.

Police believe Trausch’s body was in the river for less than 24 hours, as parks personnel had checked the area as of 2 p.m. Monday, Theriault said.

Alcohol problems

The body of Roberto Hernandez, 52, of Elgin, was also found in the Fox River on a Tuesday morning, Oct. 9, near the riverboat. Although police knew Hernandez as an area homeless man, his family said he was not homeless but had an alcohol problem. His death was ruled a drowning.

Lynn Trausch, 24, of Sterling, said her father had a severe alcohol problem. An older brother called her Tuesday to tell her of her father’s death.

She was her “daddy’s little girl,” Trausch said, but her father’s alcoholism “put a strain on our family. He had it way before, for my whole entire life,” before he began living as a homeless man in Elgin, she said.

“My dad had a serious problem with drinking,” she said. “He couldn’t maintain a job and maintain a living place. It cost him a marriage, and his kids were tired of his alcoholism. We can’t put ourselves through it anymore, and I didn’t want to put my child through it either.”

That strain on the family led her to cut off ties with her father, Trausch said. She hadn’t seen him since 2008, and he never met his 2-year-old grandchild, she added.

His ex-wife, her mother, and other family members had tried in the past to help James “to better his situation. He just didn’t want it,” she said.

“It is very hard to deal with something like that, but you ultimately can’t help someone unless they want to be helped.”

Help available

The deaths are particularly unfortunate, Theriault said, with the number of social services available to residents in the downtown area.

“Many resources are provided within just a few hundred yards of where this incident occurred,” including programs at the Renz Addiction Counseling Center and social services downtown, Theriault said.

Just four weeks ago, the department began a program using its in-house social workers to reach out to Elgin’s homeless population, he added.

Called CAMPS — Community Assessment and Management of Persons Needing Shelter — the program is trying to “take the lead to coordinate all community services to assist those who need shelter, a system instead of individual agencies helping individuals,” Theriault said.

“The department is attempting to identify anyone that is homeless and work with them … to get them in a more stable situation. We keep track of our homeless, and we had numerous interactions (with the victim) even in the last couple of weeks as we tried to deter drinking in the parks. That is why it is so unfortunate with so many resources so close.”

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