Former CPD officer stole drugs that killed Treasure Hendrix: suit
CHICAGO — In August 2021, Treasure Hendrix took her final breath inside an RV parked in a lot along an industrial stretch of South Western Avenue.
That RV was owned by Chicago Police officer Charlie Bell, who was also inside the vehicle when Hendrix died. When he awoke on Aug. 19, 2021, he found her unresponsive, called 911 and attempted CPR, according to police records.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office determined that Hendrix’s death was caused by a cocktail of illegal drugs. Along with alcohol, a toxicology screen found cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl and ecstasy in the 35-year-old’s system.
Hendrix’s family has said she never partook in hard drugs, and the initial lawsuit against Bell, filed in December 2021, accused the now-former officer of providing Hendrix with the drugs that ultimately killed her.
But that lawsuit has now been amended to include the city as a defendant. Not only did Bell give Hendrix the fatal narcotics, the lawsuit now alleges, but he regularly stole drugs from both the CPD and dealers who he encountered while on patrol. Bell then offered the stolen drugs to party guests at his home, Hendrix’s family says.
“On information and belief, as a result of this custom and practice, Defendant Bell, on more than one occasion, took illegal drugs from Defendant City’s possession or custody and distributed them to his party guests,” the amended lawsuit states.
“On multiple occasions, Defendant provided Treasure Hendrix with some of these illegal drugs that Defendant had obtained from arrestees or Chicago Police Department evidence,” the suit continues.
The CPD’s lax supervision of Bell allowed him to obtain the illegal drugs, Hendrix’s family alleges.
Attorneys for the city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this month.
“Plaintiff is essentially asking the court to impose liability on the City so that the City would be required to monitor each and every officer’s personal life, and off-duty conduct and access to recovered drugs continually — more so than it already does by having rules governing off-duty conduct, and rules and procedures for the safekeeping of recovered evidence,” the motion, filed Jan. 13, reads. “This request is excessive.”
“Defendant Bell’s alleged theft and distribution of drugs (for which the City had no knowledge in the absence of specific allegations showing actual or constructive knowledge), and Plaintiff’s choice to consume illegal drugs, are the intervening causes of [Hendrix’s] passing,” the filing states.
No date has been set for a ruling on the city’s motion.
Hendrix was pronounced dead at Mt. Sinai Hospital at 8:48 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2021. Bell, now 49, quit the CPD a week later after 21 years on the job and moved to Florida.
According to police records obtained by WGN Investigates through the Freedom of Information Act, the detective assigned to investigate her death was Joseph Montanaro.
In one of his initial reports, Montanaro wrote that Hendrix was found lying face up on a bed in the rear of the RV. She was wearing a pink jumpsuit and remnants of vomit were on the left side of her mouth. Montanaro said there were no visible signs of trauma to Hendrix’s body. Several alcohol bottles were on a table in the RV, “but no signs of narcotics.”
Bell told the detective that he would sometimes rent out his West Town condo on Airbnb. When the condo was occupied, Bell would sleep in his RV that he kept parked in the lot at 15th and Western. Bell said he paid the owner of the lot $100 each month to store the RV.
He and Hendrix had been friends for a few years and would “get together for drinks on occasion,” Bell told Montanaro.
“Bell stated that the victim has a history of alcohol and narcotics use,” Montanaro wrote. “Bell told [Montanaro] that he has had sexual relations with the victim in the past. Bell further told [the detective] that he has deposited money into the victim’s bank account to help the victim out.”
The day before Hendrix was found dead — Aug. 18 — she and Bell met for food and drinks at Parlor Pizza in the West Loop. Bell told the detective that Hendrix arrived at 2 p.m. and left two hours later to meet a friend. However, Montanaro noted, security footage from the restaurant showed Bell and Hendrix arriving together at 4:03 p.m. and leaving together about 40 minutes later.
Shortly after 9:45 p.m., surveillance footage captured Hendrix’s Honda Element arriving at the parking lot where Bell kept his RV. Bell said that when Hendrix showed up, she was already “drunk and high, at which time he told [her] to sleep in his bed for the night as he would sleep in the bunk above the drivers side,” according to the CPD’s initial case report.
Despite his resignation a week after Hendrix’s death, the CPD conducted two investigations into Bell’s conduct and his relationship with Hendrix.
Hendrix’s fiancé told police that Bell and Hendrix had a history of taking drugs together, but that charge was later deemed “unfounded,” according to CPD records.
Meanwhile, the CPD opened another investigation to determine if Bell had violated two departmental rules: one that mandates officers keep current their home address information, and another that forbids officers from associating with anyone convicted of a felony offense.
Cook County court records show that Hendrix was charged in 2005 with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery. She eventually pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated battery — a felony — and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Thirteen months after Bell resigned, internal CPD investigators determined that he did not violate rules 26 and 47, police records show. The city’s Department of Human Resources noted in Bell’s personnel file that, because he was under investigation at the time of his departure, he was barred from any future employment with the city.
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