Survivor Aids Hunt for Lane Bryant Shooter
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
In a southern suburb of Chicago, a manhunt is continuing for a robber who shot and killed five women at a clothing store last weekend. As relatives and friends mourn at funerals and memorials, a sixth victim who survived is helping police with the investigation.
NPR's Cheryl Corley brings us up to date.
CHERYL CORLEY: There are more than 50 detectives working on this case and police in Tinley Park have made appeals throughout the week for the public to call a tip hotline to help investigators solve the grizzly murders that occurred in this suburb southwest of Chicago. It was last Saturday that a lone gunman entered a Lane Bryant clothing store in a Tinley Park shopping center and herded the women there into a back room. He shot five in the head killing them and left another for dead in what authorities say was a botched robbery that has shocked this town.
Mayor EDWARD ZABROCKI (Tinley Park): This tragedy should not have happened in any town.
CORLEY: Ed Zabrocki is the mayor of Tinley Park.
Mayor ZABROCKI: And we are concerned about the safety not only of Tinley Park but the entire region.
CORLEY: The police department has added extra patrols. They are reviewing security tapes from around the area, and investigating more than 200 tips. In the shopping center's parking lot, yellow police tape cordons off an area in front of the Lane Bryant. Several yards away, there's a makeshift memorial. Five white crosses stuck in the snow each with a victim's name. Throughout the day, people drive by and stop, and leave pictures, notes and flowers.
Mr. MARK KOVAK(ph) (Resident): I was just kind of straightening it up a little bit.
CORLEY: Mark Kovak is arranging the growing collection and talking to people as they pass by. His wife was a close friend of Rhoda McFarland, the murdered 42-year-old store manager who is also a pastor of his family's church.
Mr. KOVAK: A lot of the young ladies, I'm talking to little girls as far as at the church, turned to her to where she's started, you know, a small organization for the girls to strive for excellence. There was so much good about her, you know? You really - I loved her.
CORLEY: The other victims were in their 20s and 30s. Jennifer Bishop, an intensive care unit nurse, Sarah Szafranski, who had recently graduated from college, Connie Woolfolk, a real estate agent and Carrie Chiuso, a high school social worker, had all come in the store to shop.
The woman who survived has been working with police to craft a composite sketch of the suspect who's been described as an African-American man in his 20s or 30s, with a large build, a receding hairline and thick-braided cornrows. Tinley Park police commander Rick Bruno describes the woman as emotionally raw and says police are interviewing her in stages.
Commander RICK BRUNO (Tinley Park Police Department): She's been able to go into some generalities about his physical appearance. But in order to get into details, we have to be very careful as to how we proceed and how much she can tolerate.
CORLEY: Police have not released the woman's name and she is in protective custody. A Kentucky newspaper reported that a couple they had identified as the woman's parents, said their daughter worked weekends at the store and escaped serious injury when the shot meant for her head grazed her neck. At a press conference this week, Commander Bruno read a letter from the woman in which she called the victims the bravest women she had ever met, and offered her condolences to their relatives and friends.
Comm. BRUNO: Please know that during the unfathomable events of that day, their thoughts were focused on you and coming home. My heart aches that they were unable to do so.
CORLEY: The first funeral was held yesterday for 33-year-old Carrie Hudek Chiuso. Married jut a few years ago, the social worker consults students at her old high school. Sue Anderson(ph) also taught there and knew Chiuso both as a student and a colleague.
Ms. SUE ANDERSON: She could handle the toughest kids and the kids with the biggest problem. And my kids in particular that I was teaching, the boys that had difficulties wouldn't listen to anybody else. She somehow had this wonderful ability to relate to them. We sure miss her. It's such a terrible thing.
CORLEY: The parent company of Lane Bryant has offered to pay for all of the victims' funerals and has set up a memorial fund. There's also a $55,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News.
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