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Unsolved Lane Bryant murders: ‘It sticks in your craw’

Tinley Park police continue chase tips review leads hopes finding man who killed five women wounded another inside Lane Bryant

Tinley Park police continue to chase tips and review leads in hopes of finding the man who killed five women and wounded another inside a Lane Bryant store Feb. 2, 2008. | File photo

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THE VICTIMS

The five women who died in the Lane Bryant store on Feb. 2, 2008, were Rhoda McFarland, of Joliet; Jeni Bishop, of South Bend, Ind.; Carrie Hudek-Chiuso, of Frankfort; Sarah Szafranski, of Oak Forest; and Connie
Woolfolk, of Flossmoor.

Anyone with tips about the murders is asked to contact Tinley Park police via email at lanebryant.tipline@tinleypark.org or by calling the tip hot line at (708) 444-5394. Tipsters can remain anonymous, but anyone with information leading to an arrest may receive a $100,000 reward, Tinley Park police Cmdr. Pat McCain said.

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Updated: March 3, 2012 11:26AM



A mayor, a policeman and a poet. Three men with different backgrounds share common thoughts about the darkest day in Tinley Park’s history, four years ago Thursday.

Like many in the Southland, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, Tinley Park Police Cmdr. Pat McCain and poet Steve Broadway, of Joliet, said they would be thinking of the five women killed by a gunman at the Tinley Park Lane Bryant store on Feb. 2, 2008.

Zabrocki struggles with the fact that no one has come forward with information leading to an arrest. McCain has spent countless hours with other police officials chasing down nearly 7,000 tips. Broadway still mourns a friend, Rhoda McFarland, the store manager who was one of the victims, all of whom were shot execution-style.

“It sticks in your craw because you know there’s someone out there who knows something and is sitting on it. That’s what bothers me most. Here you have five women killed, five families totally disrupted, and it doesn’t bother that person’s conscience,” Zabrocki said.

Zabrocki often thinks of that cold, gray morning at the Brookside Marketplace shopping plaza when then-Police Chief Mike O’Connell, with tears in his eyes, told him, “We’ve got five.”

“That was always on Mike’s mind, solving this case. Every year when the anniversary came up, he’d say, ‘Ed, we’re going to get him this year,’ ” Zabrocki said.

O’Connell died last year, his quest unfulfilled.

Tinley Park police have received 6,602 tips, including 137 in 2011, Zabrocki said.

Some tips are phony, from people with personal vendettas against someone, “but most want to help. We follow up on each and every one,” McCain said.

“Because these women were innocent victims, our detectives aren’t going to give up. I’ve had guys I’ve pulled off the case for various reasons who are upset. Everyone who’s been on it wants to finish it,” McCain said.

Three investigators are assigned full time to the case, McCain said. They’ve chased leads to Texas, North Carolina and London. Nothing has panned out.

The village has spent $1,491,641 on the investigation, and that does not include the estimated 7,000 hours put in by South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force personnel or the 825 man hours by persons outside the task force, Zabrocki said.

Police have reviewed more than 40,000 cell phone calls routed through two nearby cell towers that day, searching for clues. Another 3,800 await review, Zabrocki said.

“What gets me is the motivation. Why did he do this? Was it a robbery gone bad? Who robs a women’s clothing store at 10:30 in the morning? Wouldn’t there be more money later?” Zabrocki said.

McCain is stumped for the motive.

“I wish there was a clear-cut motive because that would make it easier,” McCain said.

Police have reviewed gun sales in the area. They’ve even reviewed sales of green beads because a woman who survived being shot said the killer wore green beads in his hair.

Broadway thinks it was a robbery that went sour. Perhaps the killer panicked, he said.

Broadway, who turned 50 Wednesday, was a friend of McFarland’s for years. On his 46th birthday, the day before the murders, he ran into McFarland, who gave him a hug and warm wishes.

“The next day, I’m watching CNN and see her photo on the TV,” he said.

Broadway recently wrote a poem, “Though It Seems like Yesterday,” about his late friend. He’s been circulating it through his hometown of Joliet thanks to D’Arcy Motors, which paid for copies he’s made. The poem is a loving tribute and mentions that her death left “an unremovable mark on everyone’s heart.”

“It would be so great for the families so they can have some kind of closure. All we can do is put it in the hands of God. There’s always hope,” Broadway said.

McCain is hopeful, too.

“The thing is, somebody knows. The Palatine thing went on for nine years before somebody came forward,” he said, referring to the “Brown’s Chicken massacre” of 1993 that remained unsolved for nearly a decade.

Today, McCain’s thoughts are with the surviving families.

“It’s something that will haunt them forever. I know it haunts us. Until we solve it, it will be there for me, no matter what,” he said.

The store remains vacant.



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