Why The Lane Bryant Murders Shouldn’t Worry You About Living In Tinley Park
I didn’t know about the Lane Bryant Murders case when I moved to Tinley in 2014. My husband grew up in Tinley, but he never brought it up. When I did eventually learn about the case I had some questions and over time I’ve heard from a bunch of people on the subject. So I want to share why I’m not worried about living here with you who might be wondering if Tinley Park is a safe place to live and raise a family.
From Someone Who Only Learned About It After Moving To Tinley
I first learned about the case during my time working with the PR Department, at what is now Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital. Everyone knew I was from the north and as you do, they filled me in on the things I didn’t know about the Chicago South Suburbs (the Chicago Southland as it is affectionately called). They were also curious to know what I thought of my new town, now that I knew about the Lane Bryant Murders.
Me, I feel safe living in Tinley and I don’t have any fear shopping in Brookside Marketplace, and our family shops there at least every other week. For instance, my daughter and I are going to TJ Maxx (the former Lane Bryant) next week to look for a wreath for summer—having trouble finding the perfect one for our front door.
While I would be a little more cautious shopping somewhere where the crime rate is statistically high, I’ve done my research and Tinley is not like those areas where carjackings and the like are rampant. The Lane Bryant Massacre is an outlier in an otherwise safe suburb.
As an FYI, the further East you go from Tinley there is an increase in crime rates—Harvey, IL is where you see a marked uptick on crime static maps. But I’ve driven through East Chicago and Gary (both were so different over a century ago) and nothing bad happened to me. The reason I drove through them is because my mother grew up in Whiting, IN (which isn’t far from Gary) and sometimes I visit for nostalgia. If you look at the map, Whiting is on the mid-to-high crime side but I’ve heard that it’s actually still considered a very nice suburb to raise a family (you must check out Pierogi Fest in July!). So you can’t believe everything you hear and read about a place. Also, towns change over time and one day I bet the towns with scary reputations will get better.
So whether I’m taking my kids to see where Michael Jackson grew up in Gary or we’re taking the scenic route along Lake Michigan, through East Chicago and the South Side of Chicago, I have always felt safe and serene. I tend to focus on the positive and believe people are good natures at heart. But I also lock our car before we go into a store, I always make sure I have my keys in my purse. I have acquired a little more watchfulness and fear now that I am a mom, but I don’t let it hold me back from going on adventures. I want to show my daughter the history of places, I want her to be smart about protecting herself and unafraid to explore. It’s when you venture out that you realize what you have and for those with the means and influence—I think being exposed to these areas that need help will drive them to make an effort to help them get better.
How Locals Feel After All These Years
The unresolved Lane Bryant Murders is a devasating piece of Tinley Park and Chicago Southland history that sticks in the craw—and every year on its anniversary newspapers bring the story back up…
For those who don’t know: on Saturday Feb. 2, 2008 at 10:45 AM, a man posing as a delivery man shot six women, five fatally, inside a Lane Bryant clothing store in the Brookside Marketplace at 191st and Harlem in Tinley Park, southwest of Harlem Avenue and Interstate-80.
The motive of the murderer is unclear, and he is still yet to be found.
The thing I have heard most from people over the years is how sad it is that it happened in a suburb like Tinley. Residents of Tinley and the surrounding suburbs were unseated when they heard the news. For a suburb with a relatively low crime rate and no murders, why would a man rob a women’s clothing store not long after opening time, when there was a bank nearby—14 years ago electronic payments were still second to cash, but the mornings are when cash registers have minimal cash in them.
“It’s not a robbery,” said Emmit Suddoth, 35, a cousin of Connie R. Woolfolk, who was among the dead. “I don’t care what anybody says.”
Tinley Park Mom Sofia Szink says “Hopefully the guy got killed and that’s why you can’t find him.”
Tinley Park Dad David Straussman says the killer has “faded away and will more than likely never be caught. I comfort myself that he will rot in hell, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Jacqueline Lonylyn of Mokena hopes the new detectives are open to going a different direction because maybe the perpetrator was female. “I’m 100% convinced that the person they’ve been looking for has been completely inaccurate this whole time, which is why the person has been able to go without suspicion all these years. I thought that when I saw the revised sketch a few years ago. This could have absolutely been a woman.” Lonylyn’s theory would explain why the officers that were literally in the lot never saw “him”, and also why none of the women were alerted to a red flag of a male being in the store at 8am for an extended amount of time—the murderer was in the Lane Bryant for 40 minutes.
Erin Abernathy of New Lenox, says “Even though justice has not been served, karma is a thing. He’ll get his.”
But the thing that blites the town are attitudes like this: Tinley Park Dad A.J. K. remarked to me “He walked away. Probably why criminals love coming to our area to commit crimes.” A.J., who grew up here in Tinley says that Orland Square Mall has upped security steadily over the last 10+ years, and that’s because of the Pace buses that shuttle people who do crimes from towns with more crime. I have read some fights and what not break out at Orland Square Mall over the last few years, but I don’t know how unusual that is for a shopping mall.
The Lane Bryant killer making it into the #4 spot in John Walsh’s Top 10 Cases of 2008 in his popular tv show: America’s Most Wanted (Season 22: Episode 14) also doesn’t help Tinley’s image. Other listicles out on there include 10 Worst Unresolved Mass Murders In US History.
Edward J. Zabrocki, 3 decade mayor of Tinley, at the time told Mike Nolan of the Chicago Tribune:
“People feel comfortable they play outside with the kids here. So when something like this comes in, it’s just totally out of character. They’re not prepared for this. They want to know, how could this happen in our community?”Edward J. Zabrocki (Mayor of Tinley Park 1981-2016)
For some though, the murders have made them leary of shopping in the Brookside Marketplace shopping plaza. As Tinley Park Mom Roseanna Logan puts it, “he’s long gone probably across the country. Sad part as to why I don’t go to that shopping plaza: it’s an easy getaway with the highway right there. My cousin’s best friend was killed in this incident. So sad.”
If you’re wondering why there wasn’t any footage of the killer, Tinley Park Mom Tracy Ricker says “At the time, it was a brand new shopping center…only a few business in the entire complex. That store was at the end of a strip with all other places vacant still.”
The store building itself remained unused until November 2013, when T.J. Maxx took it over for use as a retail outlet.
Voted Best Places To Raise Your Kids The Following Year
Back in 2009, Business Week released its 4th annual rankings of ‘Best Places to Raise Your Kids’ and Tinley Park won the nation’s overall best ranking for its 50 percent lower than the national average crime rate, a median household income 45 percent above the national average, at $76,605, and other factors.
The irony though about the 2009 big win is because the village was shaken the previous year. But according to Tinley Park High School Principal Theresa Zielinski, it brought the community even closer. “It shocked everybody,” said Zielinski, a lifelong resident. “It’s not what happens here in our town.” (Source: Bloomberg/BusinessWeek)
Last September I spoke to former Mayor Ed Zabrocki (yes THE Zabrocki that beautiful Zabrocki Plaza is named after), and he said he didn’t know if someone had submitted the village or if it was part of Business Week’s process to consider all towns in the United States, but that it was a great boon given the horrific Lane Bryant Murders that took place the previous year.
The Tinley Park Police and the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force
Larry Rafferty, the Tinley Park Police Department’s Deputy Chief, told Mike Nolan of the Chicago Tribune that as years have passed, Tinley Park hasn’t scaled back its commitment to supplying the financial resources the department needs to continue the investigation.
“Tinley Park has spent a ton of money on this case, Rafferty said. “(Village officials) have never stopped providing the money to do what needs to be done.”
In 2017 Tinley Park Police turned for help to a Philadelphia-based group that aids law enforcement working to solve cold-case homicides—to get “a fresh set of eyes on a very daunting and complicated case,” as then Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said in a press release at the time.
Rafferty said that as testing advances, that could shed new light on physical evidence collected in the case. “We are still exploring everything,” he said.
A couple of new developments as of late are the addition of
- Two new detectives with the department (Jeff Graves and Roger Davisson) who were assigned to the case in December,
- Digitization of all of the evidence which that’s beeen collected since Feb. 2, 2008—inside a special room in the departments headquarteres, devoted to the case—to make it easier to review.
Tinley Park Police’s Police Chief Matt Walsh said in an interview with the Chicago’s Mike Nolan that fresh eyes on the case may help in yielding critical clues needed to solve it, and remain confident that the case will be solved. “Maybe there was something we missed initially,” Walsh told Nolan.
Still, Rafferty said police don’t just dismiss out of hand something that might at first seem a dead end in the investigation. “You never know what’s going to crack it,” he said.
Still standing and unclaimed is a $100,000 reward, much of it put up by the parent company of Lane Bryant, that was hoped to pry loose key information that would lead to an arrest and conviction.
The police withheld the age and identity of the surviving victim, the part-time employee of the store.
The five deceased victims were:
- Jennifer L. Bishop, age 34, of South Bend, Indiana;
- Carrie Hudek Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort;
- Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet (the store manager);
- Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest; and
- Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor.
When a Tinley Park Mom Becky Gozdecki in the Tinley Park Moms Facebook group shared a new podcast episode from a friend of hers, I subsequently shared it of course because we’ve seen cases helped by social media—same principle as the old method of printing faces of missing people on milk cartons. A recent example of a murder case being solved thanks to a social media is the murder of young lady from Compton named Daisy De La O.
A few hours after sharing Gozdecki’s post, a Tinley Park Mom named Jen Garcia privately messaged me over Facebook Messenger and said “I know the 9-1-1 girl that took that call! Such a tragedy!” Garcia said her friend is “good still doing 9-1-1. She trained me! I didn’t last long and I didn’t have any calls even close to that!” I told Garcia, “She needs to write a memoir one of these days. 📖 She sounds like a steel magnolia. ❤️”
Back to the podcast episode I’m referring to: Ashlee Tramutolo from Blue Island created a new podcast called, A Thousand Miles Of True Crime and episode #13 covers the Lane Bryant Murders, which Trasmutolo considers a massacre.
“We are so happy we got to spread more awareness about this case. We really hope getting the word and pictures out will help even if only a tiny bit. These family’s deserve closer,” said Tramutolo.
Cool Coincidence: A Thousand Miles Of True Crime feels reminescent of the podcast Only Murders In The Building from the Hulu original series of the same name, starring Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez. Have you noticed crime focused podcasts trending lately?
Village of Tinley Park Tip Line
If you have any information, please call the Tinley Park Department’s tip hotline at (708) 444-5394 or send an email to [email protected]. All information provided to the tip line will be kept confidential.