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Crystal Lake woman facing extradition has no regrets

Neringa Venckiene gets a hug from behind from her niece.
Neringa Venckiene gets a hug from behind from her niece.

The once-prominent Lithuanian judge who made international headlines after exposing an alleged pedophilia ring that involved her young niece, fled for shelter in the U.S. and now faces extradition said she has no regrets.

“I just want people to know that I don’t regret anything that has happened,” Neringa Venckiene wrote this week in an email. “I don’t regret losing my job and stable life. I don’t regret anything I did to save the little girl who was abused by pedophiles.”

She moved to the U.S. with her son in 2013 seeking asylum, and they lived a pretty much unnoticed life in a quiet Crystal Lake neighborhood awaiting her asylum hearing.

That was until 18 months ago, when she was taken into custody. Today, she is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and faces extradition.

Venckiene now spends her days reading, watching TV, painting and sketching. She also is learning a fourth language.

Venckiene worries for her family and supporters back in Lithuania. She worries for her 20-year-old son, Karolis Venckus.

As she hopes for a stay in the extradition process, which so far has been denied, and a chance for a hearing in her asylum case, which has been postponed until 2022, she also prays.

“I want my son to not be so worried about me. I will be OK,” she wrote. “I believe that justice will one day prevail. And I feel like God is always with me. I don’t know why I have this destiny. I hope it’s because I can actually make a difference.”

Venckiene’s thoughts of her son, who has been left to figure out his life alone in the U.S. without her, are the same as any other mother’s.

“I want that my son would finish school and would pick a major that he likes,” Venckiene wrote. “I want my son to remain caring, generous and good-hearted. I want for him to remain that man that he is today.”

She said she fears returning to her country and hopes that the people of Lithuania free themselves from current government.

Venckiene wrote that her niece’s case, in which no one was convicted, “revealed how corrupt the Lithuanian justice system is.”

“The Lithuanian government chose to persecute the people who were defending the child instead of persecuting the abusers,” she wrote.

If she is returned, Venckiene said, there likely is no one there who will be able to help her.

“I hope whatever happens to me will help to unite the people who fight against corruption in Lithuania, and force the corrupt politicians out of power,” she wrote.

Venckiene asks that her story continue to be told.

“I would ask the people in the United States to share my family’s story because the only thing Lithuania government fears is publicity,” she wrote.

Venckiene also thanked all of the Americans who have “been worrying and praying for my niece, my son and my parents.”

Kathleen Miller of Crystal Lake was one of Venckiene’s first friends in the U.S. Miller recalled a time when she drove her to the grocery store and a woman took Venckiene’s picture. Venckiene said it was a Lithuanian woman. The woman then followed the two out to Miller’s car, where she took a picture of Miller’s license plate.

Apparently, that picture and her license plate information ended up in a Lithuanian newspaper with an article that said people in the U.S. were protecting her.

Miller laughed it off and said she would do anything to help her friend.

Miller and her family are “just sick” over the way Venckiene is being treated. Miller said that since Venckiene has been in Crystal Lake, she has been helpful to others, law-abiding, applied for legal residency, worked and learned English.

“We are appalled,” Miller said. “She came here thinking the U.S. would help her. It was very courageous what she did [in Lithuania]. She is one of the most honest people I have ever known. I’m very disappointed with our government. It’s just a shame.”

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