CHICAGO (CBS) — Linda Mensch, a well-known attorney in the music and film industry and a board member with the homelessness prevention advocacy organization A Save Haven, died this week in a hit-and-run on the city’s West Side.
Police said around 3:50 p.m. Thursday, a black GMC Savana cargo van hit the 70-year-old woman in the 300 block of North Central Park Avenue, near Fulton Boulevard in East Garfield Park.
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Although the driver stopped at the scene of the crash, he got back into the van and fled north on Central Park Avenue.
Mensch was later pronounced dead.
Mensch’s daughter, Jess Heyman – an attorney with New York County Defender Services in Manhattan – told CBS 2 the details of what she heard.
“He hit her initially I guess, and then got out of the car and went back in, and then drove off and dragged her body under the car for a number of feet,” Heyman said.
Heyman said the driver was going at a very “crazy speed” and driving recklessly, and believes it is likely that Mensch might have died as a result of being dragged.
Mensch was a New York native who friend and colleague Lynn Orman Weiss said became a “Chicago warrior for the arts – musicians, writers, authors, filmmakers – and a fierce advocate for artists’ rights.”
Mensch had served as vice president and president of the Chicago Recording Academy in the 1990s, and launched a pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles where all the Chicago artists and nominees performed, Orman Weiss wrote.
Orman Weiss provided photos showing Mensch with such icons as Grammy-award winning Chicago folk and children’s musician Ella Jenkins – who was Mensch’s longtime client – as well as blues guitarist and Grammy award winner David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
Mensch also had a passion for helping the homeless, leading to her involvement with A Safe Haven.
A Safe Haven President and Co-Founder Neli Vazquez Rowland issued a statement Saturday on the loss of Mensch.
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“Linda S. Mensch was an amazing life force in her professional career as an award-winning lawyer in the music and film industry,” Rowland said in the statement. “She was also an amazing, dedicated board member of A Safe Haven and champion for the cause of helping the homeless for over 12 years. As a friend, she has touched the lives of thousands of people from all walks of life and she was beloved by all. Her legacy will truly live on in the hearts and minds of all of us who knew her and were inspired by her intelligence, compassion, kindness, humor and joy.”
Mensch was of counsel at the firm Mandell Menkes LLC and Leavens, Strand and Glover LLC Entertainment, and was also president of her own law firm, a Safe Haven said.
Heyman said her mother was the first woman entertainment lawyer in Chicago and was beloved by many.
Heyman also said her mother was a joyful person who lived to connect others.
“She led an incredible life in full color,” Heyman said. She said her mother enjoyed traveling, eating, and music, and loved to hear connecting people and finding out what their dreams were.
“All she wanted to do was like figure out the way to make your dream come true – and find the right person to connect you to; the producer, the job, or whatever it was,” Heyman said.
Heyman said Mensch had been “really, really living” to the end and has just gone kayaking last weekend.
Heyman said her mother had also inspired her to go into law, and called her “glamourous, brilliant, enthusiastic, charismatic inspiration.”
“I felt like a giant foot had stomped on me,” Heyman said of hearing the news that her mother had died. “I felt just sort of flattened with grief.”
Police have released surveillance images of the van, which bears Illinois specialty White Sox license plate number 11285WS.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the Major Accident Investigation Unit at 312-745-4521.