After facing increased amounts of pressure from local activists, the Chicago Police Department started a probe into the unsolved killings of 51 women to determine if a serial killer is to blame.
According to a report by the Murder Accountability Project, a Virginia-based nonprofit group that analyzes data from national homicides, all of the 51 women were strangled or asphyxiated and “have characteristics of serial murder.”
In early April 2019, Gregg Greer of Freedom First International spoke at a Police Board meeting about the killings, saying, “We believe that there is a serial killer in Chicago that is on the loose.”
Although Police Supt. Eddie Johnson responded by saying there’s no evidence to suggest a serial killer is responsible for any of the 51 murders, which started in 2011, he did confirm his detectives have opened a new review into the cases, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
The officials with the Murder Accountability Project who finalized the report have been in communication with Chicago detectives. They are now performing an inventory of the evidence collected in the 51 killings, Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Chicago police department, told the Sun-Times.
When the cases were first under investigation, police collected 21 separate DNA profiles of unidentified people on the victims. However, of the 21 DNA profiles, there were no matches or indications that there was a serial killer involved, Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi said the multiple DNA profiles could have occurred because some of the women were sex workers.
According to the Murder Accountability Project’s report, most of the 51 victims in Chicago were found in alleyways, garbage cans, empty lots or abandoned buildings. The report also states the crimes appear to be sexually motivated as many of the victims were sex workers.
The bodies of two specific victims, Theresa Bunn and Hazel Marion Lewis, were both found in burning trash cans at Washington Park, one day apart. Almost all of the women were Black and their bodies were found on the South and West sides of the city.
“If you look at these, at the nature of the cases, it’s classic. It couldn’t be more serial-looking,” Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, told the Sun-Times. “It’s got every element for a classic pattern.”
“It actually stretches credulity to imagine that these 51 women were killed by 51 separate men,” Hargrove added.
Hargrove, a retired Washington journalist, said he’s “relieved” the Chicago police are “taking a hard look” at the 51 killings, reported the Sun-Times.
“It is extremely valuable to look at all the cases as a group. We are pretty confident there will be a commonality,” he told the Chicago newspaper.
Hargrove founded the Murder Accountability Project in 2015.