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T.J. Maxx moving into building where five women slain

Bodies victims February 2008 slayings inside Tinley Park Lane Bryant store are removed by investigators. Retailer TJ Maxx is opening

Bodies of the victims of the February 2008 slayings inside a Tinley Park Lane Bryant store are removed by investigators. Retailer TJ Maxx is opening a store at that location. Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: December 4, 2013 6:02AM



When a T.J. Maxx store opens Thursday at Tinley Park’s Brookside Marketplace mall, the retailer likely is hoping that it represents a bright future for a building with a dark past.

The discount chain, which is also closing an existing store in the village, devoted months to renovating the space formerly occupied by Lane Bryant, where five women were shot to death in February 2008.

While not dwelling on the building’s history, the retailer isn’t ignoring it either. In connection with the store’s opening, T.J. Maxx will donate $10,000 to Together We Cope, a Tinley Park charitable organization, in memory of the slain women: Jennifer Bishop, Carrie Hudek Chiuso, Rhoda McFarland, Sarah Szafranski and Connie Woolfolk.

The murders remain unsolved, and Tinley Park police have followed up on thousands of leads and enlisted the aid of the Illinois State Police, FBI and even NASA in the ongoing investigation. At least two Tinley Park officers are assigned to continue working the case, which still carries a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the killer’s arrest and conviction.

The shopping center’s owner consistently has declined to comment on whether the slayings were an impediment to leasing the space. The building housing T.J. Maxx, on the outdoor mall’s east side directly south of Ross Dress for Less, was reconfigured to make space for the store, with some existing tenants being relocated.

Doreen Thompson, a spokeswoman for T.J. Maxx’s parent company, TJX Cos., said the retailer wasn’t aware of the murders when it chose the location. She declined to say whether it had qualms about reusing the space once it learned of the crime.

“We certainly understand the many sensitivities regarding this location and respectfully look forward to supporting the community as a good neighbor,” Thompson said in an email.

With the donation to Together We Cope, T.J. Maxx isn’t stipulating how the money should be spent to honor the shooting victims, she said.

“As the beneficiary of our donation, Together We Cope will determine how to best allocate the funds,” Thompson said.

Despite the approach of the sixth anniversary of the killings and police seemingly no closer to catching the killer, Mayor Ed Zabrocki is convinced that it’s simply a matter of time before he is found.

“Somewhere, someone will make a mistake,” he said.

Zabrocki noted that nine years passed before police were able to solve the January 1993 slayings of seven people inside a Brown’s Chicken in Palatine. The girlfriend of one of the killers told police of his involvement, resulting in the two men being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Brown’s Chicken restaurant later was demolished. None of the families of the victims in the Tinley Park case sought to have the Lane Bryant space remain empty or the store demolished.

The T.J. Maxx store at 16025 Harlem Ave., in Tinley Park Plaza, is scheduled to close Sunday. About 75 employees of that store have been offered jobs at the new store, Thompson said.

The new store is about 10,000 square feet smaller than the current one. Thompson did not give a specific reason for the relocation farther south.

“We are always assessing and reviewing our real estate strategies, and our decision to relocate our store reflects that thinking,” she said.



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