Stacia Hollinshead had sought a protection order against her ex-husband, who lost custody of their only daughter in a 2018 divorce

By Jeff Truesdell
March 27, 2019 10:50 AM

Stacia Hollinshead was determined to maintain the relationship between her 5-year-old daughter and her ex-husband’s parents.

On Saturday, as arranged, the 30-year-old single mom drove the girl two hours from their home in Sycamore, Illinois, to the grandparents’ residence in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, for an afternoon visit. But while there, her ex-husband — who had lost child custody to his ex-wife, who won a court order of protection against him — unexpectedly showed up.

He carried gifts for the girl — and a loaded 9mm Luger handgun from which authorities allege he fired 15 shots at Hollinshead in the kitchen with their daughter in the next room, according to a criminal complaint.

Afterward, the ex, 31-year-old Ulisses Medina Espinosa, allegedly tossed the weapon into the sink before kneeling by his daughter and telling her, “the judge won’t hurt us any more.”

Then he waited while his horrified mother summoned police who arrested him. “He was very calm and quiet,” an officer wrote in the complaint. “He cooperated with officers, but did not say anything.”

Stacia Hollinshead
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Hollinshead was declared dead at the scene.

She was a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and a current assistant state’s attorney in DeKalb County, Illinois, where her boss, State’s Attorney Rick Amato, mourned her on the department’s Facebook page as “a dedicated mother and prosecutor with a bright future.”

“Stacia’s death is the worst possible outcome of domestic violence, and it will strengthen us as we continue to work to stop abusers who terrorize their partners and rip apart their families,” he wrote. “Stacia is yet another face and heart to fight for, and a reason to believe in the work that we do daily to free the victims in our community from the power and control of their abusers.”

Stacia Hollinshead

A Rising Star in the Courtroom

Court records say the couple’s divorce was finalized in 2018, reports the Daily Chronicle.

In 2016, Hollinshead was granted a restraining order against Espinosa, although the suspect’s mother said “he was not an aggressive or angry man” and the restraining order was “due to the divorce,” reports Milwaukee TV station WITI.

Stacia Hollinshead

The DeKalb state attorney’s office says Hollinshead began working there only last November.

“Stacia had an impressive command of the courtroom, particularly so for a new attorney, showing great poise with tough and complex matters,” wrote Amato.

“However, Stacia shined her brightest when she was around her daughter” he said in his statement. “Because Stacia was such a hard worker, she would often bring her daughter to the office as she completed her work for the day. Her daughter was instantly a favorite among the staff. Together they would brighten the office and were a joy to be around.”

“News of Stacia’s death has left us stunned, deeply saddened, struggling to understand how someone we cared for so much could be the victim of such an unimaginably violent act, and wondering how we could have helped her to prevent it,” he added.

Stacia Hollinshead
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In a separate statement, Mark Pietrowski Jr., chairman of the DeKalb County Board, said, “Our hearts go out to her family and our minds turn to the issue of domestic violence and gun violence and the connection they have,” reports WREX. “We must as a state and a nation get guns out of the hands of abusers and work to ensure our laws are enforced.”

‘He Kept Shooting Mommy’

According to the criminal complaint, Hollinshead’s sisters alleged to police the suspect had a history of stalking, manipulating and harassing her, and that she would not have gone to his parents’ home if she expected him to be there, the Daily Chronicle reports.

The victim’s boyfriend, Andrew Morris, also told police that Hollinshead feared her ex-husband was becoming more upset and “erratic,” and had mentioned acquiring a license to carry a gun as protection.

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In an interview after the shooting, the 5-year-old told police that when her father showed up at his parents’ residence, there was “a huge problem” because, “Mommy and Daddy aren’t supposed to see each other,” according to the criminal complaint, reports WITI.

“He started shooting Mommy with a gun. He kept shooting Mommy,” she said, according to police. “I was going to tell Daddy not to shoot Mommy because if Mommy is hurt she won’t be able to drive me home.”

On Tuesday a judge set Espinosa’s cash-only bond at $2 million on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide. It was unclear if he has entered a plea, and an attorney who might speak on his behalf was not immediately identified. He remains in a Dodge County jail, reports the Daily Chronicle.

“We who work in public safety talk frequently about the risks associated with domestic violence,” Amato said in his statement. “As prosecutors, we intervene in domestic violence cases in court to prevent the nightmare outcome that we’re all now living through.”

“Stacia’s tragic death drives home many points that we make constantly: Domestic violence is about power and control, it is learned behavior, it is present in all communities, it crosses all social and economic barriers, and it is preventable” he said. “No faction of society is immune from it, not even those who work in the public safety arena, fiercely dedicated to stopping it.”