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Crosby: Tw moms put away two killers

HEATHER EIDSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER From left LisLarsher mother Bailey Garnet Nicholas 'Chuck' Hall embrace while having their portrait taken Larson's Yorkville

HEATHER EIDSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER From left, Lisa Larson, her mother Bailey Garnet and Nicholas "Chuck" Hall embrace while having their portrait taken in Larson's Yorkville home Friday. Cheryl Lynn Hall, Bailey's daughter, Larson's sister, and Hall's wife, was found strangled in her Aurora home in 1981. Larry Galloway, 46, of Aurora, now faces two counts of first degree murder, 27 years after the crime. 08/01/08

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:05AM

Garnett Bailey’s daughter and Karen Dobner’s son died 30 years apart and from two totally different kinds of killers, but both moms had suspicions early on where to put the blame.

And this year, their tenacity went a long way in making sure both killers will do no harm again.

Larry Galloway is behind bars after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in April, hours before he was to go on trial for murdering Bailey’s 20-year-old daughter Cheryl Lynn Hall back in 1981.

And synthetic marijuana, which Karen Dobner’s 19-year-old son Max had purchased legally and smoked before dying in a horrific car accident in June of 2011, is now off store shelves.

I caught up with both women as we began to compile the Beacon’s “Faces of 2012” year-in-review stories that will run today through the end of this month. And I was struck by how similar the two conversations were. Both are still struggling with their respective losses, which is evident in their words, as well as the way their voices choked when talking with me.

And both admit to feeling more pain this time of year.

“The holidays are always tough,” said Bailey, who not only grieves for her eldest child, but also for her grandson Dallas, a Yorkville High School student who committed suicide in March of 2011, days after a status hearing for Galloway. “Our family has been hit with a lot ... we just keep pushing forward, but it’s never easy.”

For Dobner, this will be the first year she put up a Christmas tree since Max, who used to help her with this annual duty, was killed after the car he was driving at a high rate of speed crashed into a home on the corner of Mooseheart Road and Route 31. Extremely close to her only son, she continues to feel his loss intensely as ever.

Yet Dobner and Bailey both experienced triumphs this year. Galloway, long suspected of Cheryl Lynn’s murder, was leading a normal life as a family man and Metra train conductor when cold case detectives were finally able to link DNA evidence to him. In a plea agreement announced hours before his trial was to begin in a Kane County courtroom this spring, Galloway was handed a 10-year sentence, but likely will serve half.

“Five years is not enough for what he did to my daughter,” said Bailey. “But it took a lot of pain off me. I’m with family this holiday and he is not. And even after he gets out, it will follow him wherever he goes and whatever he tries to do.”

Dobner has reason to celebrate, as well. After learning her son had smoked the chemical-laced potpourri purchased at a local mall tobacco shop, she turned her grief into a tireless crusade to get the so-called fake marijuana off store shelves. Telling Max’s story created a swirl of local, regional and national attention. That publicity, along with an aggressive attack from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, resulted in new laws and policies to cover loopholes that had previously allowed the dangerous product to be sold over the counter.

Closure is not a word either mother likes to use. But life goes on, especially for other family members. And while nothing will ever take away their grief, both take satisfaction in what was accomplished.

Killers have been identified and put away. And that, said Garnett Bailey, “means a whole lot.”

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