CHICAGO -- A bouquet of purple and red silk flowers -- positioned in the center of an unfinished wooden garage door -- surrounds the smiling picture of Nicole Ridge, who was strangled nearly a year ago but still remembered in this alley on Chicago's Far South Side.
"RIP" is written in black marker on a white cross just to the right. "Love all way."
Ridge's slaying is still unsolved -- as are the strangulation deaths of dozens of other women in Chicago over the last two decades.
Now Chicago police have assigned a team of detectives to review the deaths more than a year after the Chicago Tribune first brought to light that at least 75 women ranging in age from 18 to 58 had been strangled or smothered between 2001 and 2017.
In its groundbreaking investigation published in January 2018, the Tribune found that 51 of the deaths still remained unsolved, prompting experts and law enforcement officials to suggest that a task force look into the cases -- both to catch patterns of a possible serial killer and to clear up the backlog of cases.
The Police Department agreed at the time to review a handful of the cases but balked at the idea of forming a task force. Since then, at least four more women have died under similar circumstances, bringing the total number of unsolved slayings identified by the Tribune to at least 55.
More recently, as new concerns were raised about a potential serial killer, the department finally assigned a team of up to six detectives already detailed to an FBI violent crimes task force in Chicago to reexamine the forensic evidence.
Assistant Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said the review could take many months as the detectives determine what DNA testing was done initially and whether additional lab work would provide investigative leads.
Family members and witnesses could also be interviewed.
And if any video evidence was collected at crime scenes, detectives will check to see if advances in technology might help generate new clues.