The nonprofit Murder Accountability Project released a report in March suggesting that 51 strangulations of Chicago women over the past two decades could be the work of one or more serial killers.
The group uses a computer algorithm to detect patterns in murders around the country, and the Chicago murders share a number of characteristics.
In late March, the Chicago Police Department assigned six detectives who are also sworn with the FBI to re-examine evidence in those cases, including DNA evidence.
CPD told WBEZ that only 21 of the 51 murders took place at a time with the most recent DNA science. CPD also said that so far, there’s no evidence of the same DNA showing up at multiple crime scenes in that set but that the investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, activists from Chicago’s South and West Sides, where the murders occurred, have been telling the Chicago Police for more than a decade that they believe a serial killer is targeting vulnerable women, especially African American women.
Morning Shift checks in with three people who have been sounding the alarm about these murders since 2007.
Where suspicions of a serial killer started
Reverend Robin Hood: A couple things happened. One, on the West Side, if you can remember, during that time there was a federal sting called Operation Silver Shovel. And on Costner and Roosevelt, around the 4400 block west of Roosevelt, there was a landfill where they dumped stuff, and when they had to clean it up, there were bodies found. And it was unbelievable, because some of those bodies were still intact. And nothing was done about it. And then immediately following that by a matter of a couple months, me and Shannon Bennett and some people from Kenwood Oakland Community Organization found out that there were some bodies on the South Side….
Shannon Bennett: We connected the fact that there were these unsolved murders of black women. In the case in ‘07, which was around the same time, there were some murders in Bronzeville, one in particular of a woman nicknamed Tweety, and her family came to the [Kenwood Oakland Community] Organization seeking help because they weren’t getting answers from the police….That case raised a red flag for us, basically because of the treatment, or lack thereof, of getting something resolved for the family members.
How the media ignores black victims
Rev. Hood: The media [is] a little more than there was at the beginning, but nowhere near enough. Law enforcement — if I was going to give them a score from 1 to 10, I would give them a -1. They have been terrible on this issue…and not just law enforcement. Our public officials haven’t been good on this issue. Our city mayors haven’t been good on this issue. And it’s [disheartening] to see women disappearing, and women coming up dead, and it doesn’t matter to anyone. And that might be a stretch of saying it doesn’t matter to anyone, but I tell you, if this was happening in any other place, on the North Side, or in one of those suburbs, and it was people of another color, there would be dragnets, we would have 24-hour round the clock media on it, because it’s unacceptable.
How the Chicago Police treated victims’ families
Bennett: [The families of victims] are very resilient. I think we take our lead from those family members who have gone through two traumas: one, the loss, then, two, the extra trauma of the disrespect and just flat-out racism that the Chicago PD and other departments have really given…to these victims….One of the family members that we’ve worked closely with, with her mother, who was a senior actually, who came up missing in the South Side: Daisy Hayes. Theresa Smith — that’s who [Kenwood Oakland Community Organization] worked closely with last summer — she repeatedly was told that the officers were not available when she called, they were on vacation. Then when they were available, they interrogated her….One of the officers, I’ll never forget, said, “Well, you know how the courts work,” assuming that because she’s black, she’s been involved with the court system. She’s like, “I’ve never been arrested. My mother’s missing.” So, the things that they endured, just trying to get answers….
On the new Chicago Police task force investigating these murders
Bennett: [The Police Department has] been dragged to the party by our work, and by the media. So what we would like to see is a really robust task force that puts community members on the task force — victims who care and can help lead the passion that it’s going to take to keep these issues alive. I mean, CPD has in one voice said, “Ok, we’re gonna start this task force, but we don’t believe there’s a pattern [to these murders].” I feel you’ve already shown where you’re gonna go with this. So no, this is not the answer. It’s a start, but we’re a little worried, because then they’ll move on to the next thing.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Char Daston. Click play to hear the full conversation.
GUEST: Louvenia Hood, executive director of Mothers Opposed To Violence Everywhere
Reverend Robin Hood, community activist, husband of Louvenia Hood
Shannon Bennett, lead organizer of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
LEARN MORE: Chicago police are finally investigating whether a serial killer murdered 51 women since 2001 (Vice News 4/12/19)
Is There A Serial Killer On The Loose In Chicago? Dozens Of Similar Cases Unsolved (CBS Chicago 2/19/19)