A month later, deaths from Ill. strip-mall shooting remain unsolved

Monday, March 3, 2008
In this composite sketch released by the Tinley Park Police Department in Tinley Park, Ill., is the suspect in the murders of five victims at the Lane Bryant Clothing Store on Feb. 2, 2008, in Tinley Park. The suspect is described as a black man, between 5 feet 9 and 6 feet tall and between 200 to 230 pounds with thick braided hair and a receding hairline. Anyone with information is asked to call the Tinley Park Police Tip Hotline at 708-444-5394. (AP Photo/Tinley Park Police Department)

TINLEY PARK, Ill. -- There have been memorials and funerals and efforts to move on in the month since a gunman killed four shoppers and a store manager at a suburban Chicago strip mall.

What there hasn't been is an arrest.

Despite 1,400 tips and detailed sketches -- down to the colored beads in the suspect's braided hair -- it's not clear whether Tinley Park police are any closer to catching the man who shot the women Feb. 2 during a botched robbery at a Lane Bryant clothing store.

The odds of catching him would seem to diminish by the day, and police chief Michael O'Connell has acknowledged the case could take years to solve.

Yet he bristles at any suggestion the trail has run cold.

"I'm very comfortable we're going to catch that guy," he said. "We're confident that we're going to get him. ... This is not a cold case; nowhere near it."

The task force handling the investigation devoted 50 detectives to it during the first three weeks, but there are now as few as 20 officers on any given day, Tinley Park Police Cmdr. Rick Bruno said.

And it's not clear what evidence is available. O'Connell won't discuss it in detail, though police have said the store's front doors were sent to a state police lab to check for fingerprints.

"(Evidence) is something we have to keep really close to our vest," O'Connell said. "The offender doesn't know what evidence we have gathered, what evidence was left behind."

Much of what is known about the killer comes from a lone woman who survived the attack and identified the shooter as a black man, between 5 feet 9 and 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds with thick braided hair and a receding hairline. Police sketches based on her description have been featured on posters and giant billboards around the Chicago area.

The investigation may be getting to the point where detectives are waiting for a lucky break -- a lead from out of the blue, criminologist Gregg McCrary said.

"You're hoping for a cold DNA hit, or that somebody who knows something is arrested and wants to make a deal, or that someone who knows something acts out of conscience," he said -- "if they have a conscience."

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