Terry Almanza is a retired 28-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, where she served with distinction in the Bureau of Organized Crime assigned to Gang Investigations. However, her journey took a tragic turn when her beloved daughter, Sydney Schergen, fell victim to the scourge of illicit drugs. Sydney, just 18 years old lost her life to poisoning by MDMA, an event that devastated the hearts of all who loved Sydney. Sydney was kind, beautiful, smart, an outstanding athlete, a brilliant student and was loved beyond measure. Sydney’s homicide set Terry on a path of advocacy and justice experiencing firsthand the aftermath of Sydney’s case, Terry recognized a troubling pattern: many cases were classified as non-criminal and closed without any investigation. This realization sparked a fervent commitment within Terry to advocate for change and ensure that victims like Sydney received the justice they deserved. Determined to address systemic issues within the justice system, Terry embarked on a mission to raise awareness, advocate for policy reform, and support victims and their families. Through her advocacy work, Terry aimed to shed light on the inadequacies of the current system and push for meaningful change to prevent future injustices and send a powerful message to the persons peddling poison for profit.

Despite the existence of the Illinois Drug Induced Homicide statute, Sydney’s case was closed and labeled as non-criminal, a decision that Almanza found unacceptable. Driven by her grief and determination, she embarked on a tireless crusade to shift the perspective within our judicial system, advocating for a transition from viewing such deaths as accidents to recognizing them as criminal acts. Almanza connected with other bereaved families who sought justice and forged partnerships with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the nation, all with the singular goal of holding drug dealers accountable and ultimately saving lives.

Almanza’s impact was felt not only on a national scale but also within her own department. She played a pivotal role in effecting policy changes within the Chicago Police Department, ensuring that cases like Sydney’s would be handled with the seriousness they deserved. Almanza continues to participate in the DEA summits involving illicit drugs and participated in countless training seminars at the Chicago Police Academy addressing newly promoted detectives on the urgency to rid our streets of illicit drugs and the dealers of death poisoning Americans at record numbers.

In 2018, Almanza’s perseverance yielded a significant victory when Brent Tyssen and Cynthia Parker pled guilty to Drug Induced Homicide, a Class X felony. This milestone underscored the gravity of her actions—recklessly endangering human lives for financial gain—and served as a beacon of hope for countless families seeking justice.
Pursuing persons within the chain of delivery sends a clear and unmistakable message to drug dealers that anyone profiting from the misery and suffering of an unlawful sale of a controlled substance that results in a death will be held criminally liable.

Almanza’s advocacy extends beyond mere punishment; she understands the intricate web of factors that contribute to the illicit drug trade’s devastating impact on society. While law enforcement plays a crucial role in combating drug trafficking and violence, she emphasizes the importance of a multi-faceted approach. This includes prevention, treatment, and education initiatives aimed at reducing demand for illegal drugs and addressing the underlying issues that fuel victims to experiment with drugs, abuse drugs or fall victim to substance use disorder.

In Almanza’s eyes, the fight against the illegal drug trade is not just about apprehending traffickers; it’s about safeguarding communities, preserving lives, and addressing the systemic challenges that perpetuate this cycle of harm. The Drug Induced Homicide Foundation’s dedication, compassion, and resilience serve as a beacon of hope in the ongoing battle for a safer, healthier future for all.

In Memory of Sydney Ann Schergen, 18
Manner of death MDMA poisoning
Date of death May 31, 2015
Chicago, Cook County, IL