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Chicago police take fresh look at unsolved slayings of 55 women — and the possibility of a serial killer

Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

The alleys -- like the one where Ridge's body was found behind 104th Place -- are too dangerous for even residents to use. A garage just steps from her memorial is badly decaying.

"You don't go in an alley over here," said Becky DeaKyne, her voice lowering to a near whisper. "I don't drive in them. I don't walk in them. It's not safe. It's not smart."

The threat of an attacker adds yet another layer of anxiety for the Roseland neighborhood. Not unlike many areas where the women were found, it's rife with drug dealing and shootings.

"You don't dare go out without a phone," said DeaKyne, out walking her dog. "You keep the phone on. You don't put it in your pocket. Everybody is afraid to go out, so there is nobody to scream help to."

The new task force was formed after an outcry from activists as well as news media reports. The nonprofit Murder Accountability Project presented the Police Department with a nearly identical list of victims as the Tribune had in early 2018.

Those who have waited for answers welcomed the renewed attention from detectives and called on everyone -- from the highest elected officials to residents themselves -- to ensure that the cases are investigated.

"This is more than just a personal plea to our new Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to have all these cases looked into. This is a wake-up call to our communities," one woman, whose sister, Margaret Gomez, 22, was one of the victims, wrote in a letter to the Tribune. "We need to care. If you see something, please say something. These women deserve justice. Margaret deserves justice."

Shannon Bennett, deputy director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, said he was in touch with the family of another victim as far back as 2007 who worried that their loved one's killing had not been given the necessary attention by police. The relatives had heard of similar slayings and wondered if they were connected, he said.


Bennett said the community has become even more galvanized in the past year because of the growing publicity about the slayings. The fact that most of the victims are African American has not gone unnoticed, he said.

"The families are very disheartened with the process and lack of regard, just blatant lack of regard, for the lives of black women," he said.

Bennett said the task force set up by police represents a good step. But he suggested there should also be a task force that includes community members to address the concerns of families over the decades that no one cared. He also wants other issues taken on, such as the backlog of evidence that awaits testing at the Illinois state crime laboratories.

"If folks come to the table, there can be joint advocacy and resolve," Bennett said. "We are not adversarial. There is a role for police. There is a role for community and for academia and policymakers on all levels."

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